Turkey – now the Purge

As the President of Turkey (Recep Tayyip Erdogan) and his leading supporters work through the response to the failed coup, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that the reprisals have anything to do with upholding the democratic process. When the most senior member of the 100 or so already accused of high treason, General Akin Ozturk, (General in charge of the Air-force until 2015) appeared in court he had visible signs of damage to his face and upper body. Since Turkey was already on Human Rights watch, that a senior respected officer should be treated in that way is unlikely to convince outside observers that Turkey under President Erdogan is moving in the right direction.  The sight of large flag waving groups of demonstrators with synchronized cries of “execute” is uncannily like German political rallies in the 1930s supporting another leader also apparently granted power by the political will of the people.

The huge number now under arrest or dismissed from key positions estimated at 45 000, gives the distinct impression that this is the President now using the coup as an excuse to get rid of potential opponents.  Visible evidence of torture simply encourages observers to conclude evidence obtained by such methods about any confession of coup collusion is invalid.

The officials so far sacked or detained include judges, generals, senior clerics, academics, governors and police officers. It is beyond credibility to believe that coup involvement was established for each of these in such a short time.  The suspicion of guilt by association with those influenced by Fethullah Gülen is similarly ironic – and all the more so when it is remembered that the Gulen movement was exploited by the President’s party when it was first elected.

The following I note from the BBC:
6,000 military personnel have been arrested, with more than one hundred generals now awaiting trial
Many teachers and University Deans are amongst the 15,000 education staff who have been stood down
Nearly 9,000 police officers have been sacked
Close to 3,000 judges have been suspended
Some 1,500 employees of Turkey’s finance ministry have been dismissed
492 have been fired from the Religious Affairs Directorate
More than 250 staff in Prime Minister Yildirim’s office have been removed

Rather more puzzling is that there is now some evidence that Generals in the military had reported that the coup was imminent several hours before the action began. This then raises the suspicion that the Government may have even allowed the coup attempt to begin to provide the excuse to crush future potential Government opposition. Rather than an example of democracy being defended, the purge in aftermath of the coup has more hallmarks of an authoritarian, nationalistic regime in action.  With the fact that almost certainly a large number of those targeted by the authorities will have friends, family and supporters, it is unlikely that the potential for future disruption is going away any time soon.

This judgment appears shared by many observers in that despite the coup’s obvious failure, virtually all the Western nations have placed travel warnings to Turkey in place.

The huge and rapid change to staff in so many key institutions will almost certainly provide many future log jams in bureaucratic services at the very time the people of Turkey had been hoping to move towards economic and political stability.

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