The other side of Turkey’s coup attempt probes

The other side of Turkey’s coup attempt probes

The social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) announced on Sept. 14 that it had received some 30,000 complaints so far from people who believe they have been unfairly treated in the probes into Turkey’s bloody coup attempt of July 15.

The CHP says it is willing to share the information with the government. During an Eid al-Adha visit by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) to the CHP’s headquarters, party officials offered to cooperate with their guests in clearing all secret organizations from the state apparatus, while being more careful before taking action against those with suspected links to Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamic scholar who the government accuses of masterminding the coup attempt.

So far more than 80,000 people have been suspended from public office, while more than half of them have been sacked. More than half of those sacked were teachers and principals under the Education Ministry. There are also more than 3,000 removed military officers, some of whom were arrested on the night of the coup attempt, when 270 people were killed in clashes (including 30 on the plotters’ side). There are also thousands of judges, prosecutors, police officers and university professors among those either suspended or removed from their offices (some of them were arrested), accused of acting on behalf of the “Fethullahist Terror Organization” (FETÖ), as denounced by the government and prosecutors carrying out the probes. 

Rivals accusing each other of being FETÖ members has started to turn into a dangerous game. Before July 15 there were stories about husbands and wives accusing each other of insulting President Tayyip Erdoğan in order to get a quick divorce. After July 15, to be accused of having Gülenist links is like being accused of being a communist in McCarthy’s America. The difference is that communists in the U.S. had not infiltrated extensively into government institutions and had not attempted a bloody coup.

On Sept. 13, news was reported about a Turkish police officer who shot and killed a private security employee, who was also the local leader of the youth branch of the AK Parti, because he mocked him as a FETÖ member.

The government appears to be aware of the problem. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım announced last week that there will be “crisis desks” in every province to examine complaints of unfair measures during the post-coup probe.  

It seems that the majority of names under investigation were spotted by the security services by determining whether he or she was using the ByLock instant messaging service, which Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) believes was developed and used by Gülenists in their secret communications (see HDN, Sept. 13, 2016). But there are also cases of complaints in which, for example, someone has lost their job because they shared the same ADSL in a building with neighbors who included suspected Gülenists. There are other complaints about someone losing their job because they one took out housing credit from Bank Asya (which was seized by the government after the coup attempt) because a construction company had an agreement with them. 

There are also complaints from those who are neither accused of having Gülenist links nor were involved in the coup but have been affected by the government measures taken in the wake of the state of emergency declared after the coup attempt. For example, (apart from those removed over suspected FETÖ links) 11,500 teachers were recently removed from the education system amid allegations of suspected links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been carrying out a fierce armed campaign against Turkey since 1984. Most of those teachers say they were punished for taking part in a strike “against war, for peace” on Dec. 29 last year, called by a left-wing teachers’ union. Many of the complaints lodged with the CHP have been from such teachers who have lost their jobs.

The boldness of the measures is partly because of the trauma caused by the coup. If it had succeeded, Turkey, a key NATO country, could well have descended into civil war. A recent survey showed that 88 percent of the people believed it was the Gülenists who led the coup attempt, while 90 percent said the government should act with the opposition against similar threats and 92 percent supported the current removals from office (see HDN, Sept. 14, 2016). Another factor in this high level of support for the measures, despite the complaints, is that many believe the Gülenists seized many state positions through the organized theft of questions for entry exams to military high schools, universities, judicial positions and government jobs.

But the fact is that many of those wrongdoings were committed during the 14-year rule of AK Parti governments. That is another reason why it is necessary for the government to show the maximum care and perhaps listen to what the opposition is saying. Many government officials themselves admit (not loudly) that they failed to heed those warnings over the past decade.