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New phase of Turkey's emergency rule

Hilal Köylü
October 20, 2016

Turkey has begun a second three-month period of emergency rule following the failed coup on July 15. During the first three months, tens of thousands were detained or fired, with further arrests made on Thursday.

Anti-purge protest in Istanbul
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Wednesday saw the beginning of a second 13-week state of emergency in Turkey, as the government continues to purge those with alleged links to the perpetrators. The extension was confirmed earlier this month despite complaints that the government was trying to stifle dissent.

Eight emergency decrees were passed on July 20, when Turkey first put crisis measures in place after the attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

At least 40,000 people were detained, 32,000 arrested, 93,000 civil servants suspended from duty, and 59,841 civil servants were dismissed after the decrees were issued.

According to data from The Human Rights Association of Turkey, 984 private schools, 15 universities, 1,225 associations, 104 foundations, and 35 hospitals were also shut down. Turkish media outlets were not spared from the widespread purge either.

Fethullah Gülen
Turkey blames Cleric Fethullah Gülen for the failed coupImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Smith

The blame for the failed putsch has been firmly pinned on exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers run schools, companies and religious organizations across the country and overseas. The Ankara government has been seeking his extradition from the US ever since.

Military reorganized

Plans were made to move military bases located in city centers. The Gendarmerie General Command and Coast Guard Command were brought under the Interior Ministry, while the Army, Navy and Air Force were brought under the Defense Ministry. The Gulhane Military Medical Academy (GATA) and other military hospitals were brought under the Health Ministry.

Following the failed coup attempt, 4,545 personnel were discharged from the military.

Education ministry worst hit

The Education Ministry was one of the most purged sectors. More than 28,000 teachers were dismissed, suspected of having ties to Gulen's organizations.

A further 11, 000 teachers were suspended amid allegations of links to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Nearly 10,000 of these teachers were members of Education and Science Workers Union (Eğitim-SEN). The government later said that they were being sacked because of them "violating security operations and curfew, hampering education and taking part in activities that aid the PKK."

One of the biggest shake-ups during the initial state of emergency took place at the Council of Higher Education (YÖK). The YÖK demanded the resignation of 1,577 university deans. In total, 2,341 dismissals were made from state and foundation universities in the weeks that followed the putsch attempt.

The government claimed the military and education sector had been infiltrated by Gulen's movement, before turning to the police and justice system. More than 9,300 police officers were discharged, while 3,392 judges and prosecutors had their licenses revoked. 

Numerous detainees from the media

Thousands of media professionals were also targeted by the purge. More than 100 journalists were arrested, while 2,500 journalists were laid off, according to the Turkish Journalists' Association. Close to 800 journalists either had their press cards withdrawn or their permanent press credentials revoked.

Journalist Ahmet Altan
Ahmet Altan was among several journalists arrestedImage: picture alliance/Photoshot

Among dozens of media outlets shut down were 45 newspapers, 15 magazines, 18 TV stations, 23 radio stations, 29 publishing houses and 3 news agencies. Prominent journalists such as the Altan Brothers, Ahmet and Mehmet, were among those arrested during the investigations.

Under the emergency rule, the Turkish government also appointed several trustees to local municipalities. The administrators were charged with overseeing 28 municipalities suspected of supporting terrorist organizations.

Constitution violations criticized

Several legal experts have accused the Turkish government of violating the constitution by conducting a sweeping purge following the failed coup, without proper oversight.

"The constitution is clear on how state institutions and fair trials are to be handled during a state of emergency. The right to live freely and being innocent until proven guilty is a constitutional guarantee," Constitutional Law Professor Ibrahim Kaboglu told DW.

"The constitution has been violated and the rights of people to live freely and receive a fair trial have been taken away," he added.

Another legal expert, Professor İzzet Ozgenc from Gazi University told DW the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) clearly states which rights and freedoms cannot be limited during emergency rule.

"We do not know if the persons dismissed from their posts have committed a crime," Ozgenc said.

Teacher protest
Thousands of teachers are among those arrestedImage: Getty Images/AFP/I. Akengin

He also emphasized that no sanctions could be placed until those accused have defended themselves.

"Did the actions taken protect the basic rights secured by the ECHR? No, they didn’t. This will be questioned much more."

Extension causes added concern

The Turkish government extended the state of emergency on October 19th for a further three months. Concerns are rising across Turkey and internationally that more dismissals, forced closures, and arrests will now take place.

On Thursday, police rounded up 40 soldiers at a military bases in the country's central region, accused of having Gulen ties. Arrest warrants were issued for seven other military personnel.

Similar raids in Izmir and Elazig provinces nabbed an additional 31 suspected Gulenists.

"The risk of the principles of rule of law being violated in the second three-month period is higher than in the first," Amnesty International Turkey Representative Andrew Gardner told the German news agency dpa.

He warned that the government was using the decree laws to crackdown on all opponents, not just the Gulen movement, suspected of responsibility for the coup attempt.

"Using the obscure threat of terrorist organizations to justify this extension is a sign that this trend will continue."