Turkey announced last week that it had fired 10,000 civil servants and shut down 15 media outlets due to suspected associations with terrorist organizations and Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric Ankara blames for orchestrating the failed military coup that rocked Turkey in July.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the coup a “gift from God” and declared the uprising “a reason to cleanse our army.” Over 7,000 general-rank military personnel were arrested and more than 8,000 military officers and at least 30 town governors were sacked during the “cleanse” immediately following the coup. Tens of thousands of public employees, many of them teachers, were also fired.
According to two executive decrees published on Saturday, thousands of teachers, academics, prison guards, health workers, and forensics experts were among the latest group to be sacked. A total of 15 wires, newspapers, and magazines were closed, and Erdogan has stripped the nation’s universities from the ability to elect their own rectors.
The state of emergency declared after the coup has been extended into January, but Erdogan argues that authorities need more time to expunge the threat posed by Gulen’s so-called network. CHP lawmaker Lale Karabiyik says Erdogan’s latest move was a misuse of the emergency rule decrees and insists that it is a coup on higher education.
There’s no doubt that Erdogan’s rash policies have divided the country, and his ongoing purge raises concerns about the functioning of the nation.
“What the government and Erdogan are doing right now is a direct coup against the rule of law and democracy,” argues MP Sezin Tanrikulu of the CHP (Republican People’s Party).
The city of Diyarbakir erupted in protest earlier this week as co-mayors Gultan Kisanak and Firat Anli were detained and then arrested for alleged membership in a terrorist organization. Police used rubber pellets to break up crowds of protestors, and witnesses say the city has been largely without Internet for several days.
The extent of Erdogan’s crackdown has many worried that Erdogan is using the failed coup as an excuse to eradicate all dissent and accomplish his own goals – including the installment of the death penalty and perhaps the Islamification of Turkish educaiton.
The ruling government argues that his actions are justified given the fact that over 240 people died in the attempted uprising.
Erdogan is no friend to the US or to Europe, but we must remember that Turkey is a NATO partner with access to nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Ankara continues to demand that the US arrest and extradite Gulen – while the cleric (now living in Pennsylvania) insists he had nothing to do with the coup.