Turkish President Using Failed Coup as Excuse to Gain Absolute Power


In the immediate aftermath of the Turkish military’s attempted coup on July 15, the international community responded with relief. While many people within Turkey and outside of it are no fans of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian regime, the bloodshed and chaos that would have resulted from a government overthrow seemed like the worse of two options.

But a little more than a week after the failed coup, it’s clear that the Turkish president is taking advantage of it in an attempt to gain absolute power in Turkey, enacting draconian measures and targeting any person or institution who might act as a voice of dissent. As Turkey moves toward dictatorial rule, here’s what the international community needs to know.

Turkey has so far used its newly declared state of emergency to force the closure of 2,341 institutions, including universities, charities, hospitals, and labor unions. What does this have to do with the coup attempt?

The government says that it’s targeting institutions believed to support exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the coup. But a look at the list suggests that a great many could have no relationship with the coup attempt, even if they could be linked to the Gulen movement by circumstantial evidence. The list includes the famous Journalists and Writers Foundation; KYM, the largest humanitarian organization in Turkey; and the Turkce-Der, the foundation behind the world renowned International Festival of Language and Culture, which was implicitly endorsed by both President Obama and United Nations general secretary Ban Ki-moon this year. The list also included such unexpected targets as the staunchly secular Association of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), which aims to ensure the independence of Turkey’s judiciary system, and charitable organizations dedicated to such causes as women’s education and blood donation.

The fact that 1,043 private schools; 109 student dormitories; 1,229 foundations and associations; 15 universities; 35 medical institutions; and 19 labor unions have been closed down suggests the Erdogan government is aiming for a complete extermination of Gulen movement, along with any other voices of dissent. Such measures, of course, are grist for the mill for conspiracy theorists, who claim that the attempted coup was orchestrated by Erdogan to annihilate his rivals.

How many people have been arrested or detained so far?

According to the latest update on Saturday evening from president Erdogan, [Turkish], the government detained 13,165 people during the first week after the coup attempt. Out of that number, 8,883 were army personnel; 2,101 were judges and prosecutors; 1,485 were police officers; and the rest were civilians. Among the 13,165 detainees, 5,863 have been placed under arrest, including at least 123 army generals or admirals (some claim the number of generals and admirals under arrestto be as high as 163.)

How is the fallout affecting people who haven’t been detained or arrested?

An estimated 53,000 government workers have been fired or suspended. Even more people are likely to lose their jobs with the closure of thousands of non-government institutions. Already, some 11,000 passports belonging to state officials [Turkish] have been voided. The government has called back some civil servants from leave, and citizens are required to show proof of employment when they try to leave the country. Both of these measures have been enacted under the pretext of preventing Gulen movement supporters escaping prosecutions [Turkish]. All this suggests that the government has an even larger list of people it plans to detain and arrest and is trying to keep them within Turkey.

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SOURCE: Kerim Balci