Turkey post-coup purges convulse society


Date posted: October 2, 2016

Mark Lowen

They are just visible on the white stone entrance: the outlines of letters that once spelled out “Fatih University”, removed after the attempted coup.

Students wait outside the closed gates to find out where they have been reassigned, their alma mater now designated a “terrorist institution”.

Fatih is one of 15 universities closed down since 15 July for having links to Fethullah Gulen, the cleric who the government alleges masterminded the coup and who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

His educational movement opened schools and universities across Turkey and in 140 other countries from the 1980s.

Now anybody with alleged links to him or the failed takeover is being rounded up in the biggest purge in Turkey’s modern history.

Some 100,000 people have been dismissed or suspended, 70,000 detained and 32,000 arrested: from teachers to soldiers, police to judges, aircraft pilots to journalists. Even the country’s most famous baklava chef was interrogated. The depth of the purge is staggering.

Blacklisted

Nilufer Demircioglu was in her final year of chemistry studies at Fatih University when it was shut down. Of the 14,000 students, some have already been moved – many to universities far from their homes. But with an administrative backlog, she is still waiting to hear if she can complete her course and fulfil her dream of working in a laboratory.

“I never followed Fethullah Gulen,” she says. “I enrolled here because I was given a scholarship and it was close to my home. Our political leaders used to come here and promote this university. Now they have stopped me from finishing my studies.”

Post-coup politics has forced Nilufer Demircioglu to change her study plans

Post-coup politics has forced Nilufer Demircioglu to change her study plans

Is she afraid of being forever labelled “Gulenist” due to her university, I ask?

“Everyone is scared that they won’t be employed if they have the name of this university on their diploma. Former graduates have even been fired.”

The Gulen movement was once close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – Islamists reshaping a constitutionally secular country.

But from 2013 they fell out badly. Gulen followers within the police and intelligence services were blamed for orchestrating phone leaks that appeared to implicate Mr Erdogan and his inner circle in corruption.

Many now being rounded up in the post-coup purge say those in power never complained of Gulen’s influence when they were using it for their own means.

But the purge has spread beyond suspected “Gulenists”.

Coup plot and anti-Gulen fervour

‘Terrorist’ label

Under the post-coup state of emergency, special decrees are netting all those accused of backing “terrorist groups” – a label considered so broad that the EU is insisting Turkey should narrow it if Turks are to be granted visa-free travel to Europe.

The state has targeted 1,100 academics who signed a declaration calling for a halt to Turkey’s conflict with the PKK Kurdish militants – and accusing the government of “massacres” in Kurdish areas.

Derya Keskin, a sociology professor, is among those fired from Kocaeli University and expelled from the public service.

“The Gulen movement is against everything we stand for: democracy, justice, secularism and peace,” she tells me.

“But since we signed the peace declaration, the university administration wanted to get rid of us. If there is no free thinking or free speech, there can be no science or democracy. The government wants to get rid of everybody who doesn’t obey them.”

Prof Derya Keskin lost her university job after signing a peace declaration

Prof Derya Keskin lost her university job after signing a peace declaration

President Erdogan has defended the purge, saying Turkey “needs time to clean up the extensions of these terrorist organisations”.

But he has also acknowledged that some innocent people may have been unfairly caught up in the arrests, and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has now talked of crisis centres being established to handle claims from those unjustly accused.

Suspicious dollars

“It is absolutely correct to pursue the arrests and dismissals,” says Enes Bayrakli from the pro-government think-tank SETA.

“There might be some mistakes but there will be mechanisms to correct those problems. We must understand the threat Turkey is facing.”

Any supposed link to Gulen-affiliated bodies is being scrutinised, such as deposits in the Gulen-linked Bank Asya.

More apparently outlandish connections have been alleged by the government, such as carrying a one-dollar bill, which it says denotes support for the movement.

The “Gulen” label is being widely bandied about. Even I was accused of being “Gulenist” and “close to Pennsylvania” by the pro-government columnist Mehmet Barlas for an article I had written about Mr Erdogan.

But Enes Bayrakli rejects claims of a witch hunt. “A terrorist organisation doesn’t just have one dimension,” he tells me. “It has an armed section but also a propaganda section. To take it down, you have to address all these issues.”

Silencing critics

The terrorism charge is being levelled at pro-Kurdish writers, such as the award-winning novelist Asli Erdogan, in prison since mid-August. She was arrested for columns she had written for the pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem, on whose board she also served. A diabetic, she has complained of ill treatment in detention.

The banner reads "Free media cannot be silenced" - a protest after Ozgur Gundem was closed in August

The banner reads “Free media cannot be silenced” – a protest after Ozgur Gundem was closed in August

“By arresting Asli Erdogan, they’re trying to threaten Turkish intellectuals not to confront the Kurdish issue or criticise the government’s security measures,” says her lawyer Erdal Dogan. “The government is using the coup to hush up its critics. It’s not explicable within the legal framework.”

President Erdogan says the state of emergency might be needed for another year to crush the “terrorist” threat. More than 130 media outlets have been shut down, the pro-Kurdish IMC TV the latest victim.

The authorities have started releasing 38,000 prisoners, to make way for the new arrests.

Turkish society is undergoing its most dramatic reordering in decades. An emboldened government has a free hand. And there is little sign that it is loosening its grip.

Source: BBC News , October 3, 2016


Related News

Witch hunt and AKP’s legacy from Feb. 28

The witch hunt that has been affecting virtually all state institutions as well as private sector companies in recent months has a specific target: a social group, namely the Hizmet movement. Thousands of innocent people are being victimized solely because of their affiliation with or sympathy toward a social group, and no one can raise an objection to this profound injustice.

Erdoğan now at odds with once-closest ally

Those who have an interest in Turkish politics may have been a little confused for the last few weeks, observing the row between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government and the social movement of religious scholar Fethullah Gülen, or the “Hizmet” (Service) movement as they preferred to be called. The row is over the closure of private prep schools (“dershane” in Turkish).

Opposition deputy seeks answers on gov’t ban on Kimse Yok Mu

A lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has directed questions at Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on why the government banned charity group Kimse Yok Mu from collecting donations. In a formal parliamentary question, CHP Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu asked Davutoğlu to explain the legal grounds for the government decision dated Sept. 22 to rescind Kimse Yok Mu’s permission to collect charitable donations

Understanding shifts in Islamic interpretation in Turkey through Gulen-inspired Yamanlar High School

Erdogan regime has transformed most of the seized schools into religious vocational high schools, where teachers mostly teach Salafi beliefs. The Gülen Movement’s first school Yamanlar College was one of them.

[Part 4] Gülen calls for respect of diversity in Turkey to end polarization

Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has inspired the popular civic and social movement called Hizmet, called for the respect of diversity in Turkey, expressing his concern over growing polarization in society.

Gov’t bid to close Turkish schools draws ire

Many from various circles, including intellectuals and academics, have leveled harsh criticism against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government’s attempts to shut down Turkish schools abroad affiliated with the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Latest News

Crimes Against Humanity in Erdogan’s Turkey

Exiled journalist warns of a genocide in the making in newly released book

Vague terrorism charge used to target supporters of the Gülen movement: UN special rapporteurs

ECtHR urges Albania not to deport Gülen follower to Turkey

Woman detained over links to Gülen movement after giving birth

Formerly Gülen-linked schools in Albania face growing gov’t pressure

Exclusive: Turkey, Kosovo violated fundamental rights of expelled teachers, UN body says

Sacked policeman’s grim death sparks debate on COVID-19 data in Turkish prisons

Dissidents of the Turkish government are living in fear in Canada

In Case You Missed It

Turkish school staff among 230 more evacuated from Yemen

10-year-old girl dies in traffic accident while on way to visit to imprisoned father

Turkey: Effort to Force Closure of Gülen Schools Falling Flat in Eurasia

Gülen’s lawyer condemns Erdoğan’s accusations, TÜSİAD calls for sanity in country

Group of activists walking across Europe raises 40,000 euros for Turkish refugees in Greece

Turkish school leaves tight quarters for spacious former Wayne corporate building

VIDEO – Was July 15 Erdogan’s Reichstag Fire?

Copyright 2021 Hizmet News