The Aftermath of Turkey’s Attempted Coup and People Stories

What Happened?

On July 15, Friday, Turkey witnessed an attempted coup orchestrated by sections of the military, which resulted in the death of almost three hundred and injury of many more people. The coup was effectively thwarted by the efforts of the public, police and political establishment. A three-month state of emergency was declared following the failed coup.

Following the coup, a total of 72,078 people have been purged from the public sector, with 18,510 detained; 9,949 arrested, including 2,218 judges and prosecutors; 42 journalists; 1,500 university deans forced to resign; and 21,000 teachers whose teaching licenses have been revoked. Furthermore, the government has shut down the following since the attempted coup: 1,058 schools, dormitories and universities with their personnel dismissed; 1,229 charities and associations; 35 hospitals; and 151 media outlets (source: Turkey Purge).

The Turkish President and Prime Minister have shunned the calls for evidence stating that the culpability of the ‘culprits’ is self-evident.

What does it Mean?
By shutting down critical media outlets, the government has almost completed its absolute control of media in Turkey. By doing so, the government has ensured that its political narratives are unchallengeable in Turkey. By declaring a state of emergency, the Turkish government bypasses the parliament by combining the executive with the legislative. The Turkish government can rule with cabinet approved decrees as opposed to parliament approved laws.

By suspending Turkey’s membership with the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), the government shields itself from the European Court of Human Rights oversight. As a result, these decrees do not have to comply with the ECHR or with the Turkish constitution. What is more, the substantial judicial purge is completely undermining judicial independence.

The purge within the private sector and civil society is also causing private citizens to take matters into their own hands by seeking out ‘Gulenists’ and beating them in the streets, ransacking their stores and throwing them out of their homes. Coupled with reports of torture of detainees, the impact of these measures is to create a palpable sense of fear among those not considered to be supporters of the Turkish government. This also prevents anyone from the public or private sector, including the Turkey-based media, from being able to openly challenge the government narrative for fear of being labelled a coup-supporter.

Some People Stories
These developments have serious implications for the on-going and widespread purge of people from different walks of life. The following are some stories of those impacted by the government’s post-coup purge.

Gokhan Acikkolu was a history teacher in a state school in Istanbul. He was taken into custody with relations to the Hizmet movement. He had diabetes, and he could not take his required medication for 6 days. 14 days later, badly wounded and seriously ill, the teacher died under custody. His testimony was not taken yet, so he did not know what he was being accused of. He was denied a funeral service by the Religious Directorate since he was declared a “traitor” and his family were shown the newly allotted “Traitors’ Cemetery” for burial without any religious service. He was buried in Konya by his family without any official funeral service or support.

Mustafa Torer was a businessman and was among the 20,000 people taken into custody as part of the massive crackdown following the coup attempt on July 15. He was taken to Iskenderun prison. Mustafa, who was suffering from diabetes, died in custody due to a heart attack triggered by severe stress and trauma.

Hilmi Yavuz is a renowned poet, philosopher and academic who is in his 80s. He was also one of those detained and interrogated for his alleged collaboration in the coup attempt. Despite handing himself to the authorities, he was kept in custody with no one to take his statement. He was not allowed to take his prescribed medication causing him to fall ill and be hospitalised. He was later released after his statement was taken.

Muhammet Cakir, a Turkish lawyer, fled when finding out that he was to be detained out of fear of persecution. As a result, the police detained his ailing and sick 86 year old mother in his place and have kept her in detention without visitation rights. Since she is being held under the state of emergency laws, she has far less rights than would otherwise be the case.

Candan Badem, a Marxist academic, was detained by the police for having a book by Gulen in his university office. Having a book by Gulen was enough grounds to link him to the failed coup. He was kept in detention for 1 day and released after his statement was taken and pending further investigation. Upon release he said ‘being a Marxist and atheist has finally paid off in Turkey’.

Bulent Korucu, editor in chief of Yarına Bakış newspaper until it was shut down post-coup, fled out of fear of unlawful detention and persecution. As a result, the police have detained his wife instead, telling his eldest child that he is next, unless his father surrenders. State or privately appointed lawyers have refused to represent Bulent’s wife out of fear of being targeted themselves.

Sahin Alpay, a secular academic and columnist who is known and respected for his support of democracy and who lauded the governing party in its first two terms, is being detained for writing for the Zaman newspaper, which was taken over by the government before the failed coup.

Emre Soncan, a news reporter for the Zaman newspaper was arrested on July 29, 2016. Emre suffers from a serious kidney disease and must have medical tests daily. He must follow an extremely strict diet under the supervision of his doctor. Under Turkey’s state-of-emergency rules, Emre was even denied access to his lawyer. There are no updates about his health condition.

Hasim Soylemez, a reporter for the Aksiyon news magazine, was arrested on July 28, 2016. Hasim, had his second brain surgery a few months ago and has to remain under strict medical care due to his severe medical condition. His friends and family are extremely concerned for his life.


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