After Friday’s coup attempt, which led to the killing of almost 300 civilians, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced that in order to counter Gülenist influence, the country will be placed under a state of emergency.
Following the failed of the coup attempt, Turkey has expanded its ongoing purge of public officials claimed to be linked with the religious community of Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey accuses of orchestrating the coup. Thousands of officials in military, judiciary, government ministries, universities and other branches of public institutions have been discharged, with thousands more detained.
The coup attempt on Friday began with tanks and soldiers being deployed to key positions in Ankara and Istanbul, such as the bridges over the Bosphorus straits and the Headquarters of General Chief of Staff. Within hours however, people took to the streets in support of the government, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and President Erdoğan.
The President attracted public attention today over the National Security Council (MGK) Meeting, in which he said “an important decision” would be taken. The MGK meeting will produce advisory decisions, to be adopted by the cabinet, scheduled to meet immediately after.
President Erdoğan declared that in order to counter Gülenist influence, the MGK advised the government to instate a three-month-long state of emergency. The declaration of a state of emergency is justified under articles 120 and 121 of Turkey’s constitution.
During a state of emergency, according to Article 121 of the constitution, the Council of Ministers have the power to issue decrees which cannot then be taken to the Constitutional Court with the claim of violating the constitution.
President Erdoğan, in his address, referred to the ongoing state of emergency in France following the Paris attacks. He argued that Europe should not criticize the exercise of this power in Turkey, alleging that France has not been subject to criticism based on their implementation of the law.
Although European leaders have largely remained silent on this matter, there have been significant and vocal criticisms from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch over the practices and extension of France’s state of emergency.
Turkey has exercised the right to declare a state of emergency several times in the past, the last instance of which had been partially in place in Diyarbakır and Şırnak for 15 years. This was ended on November 30, 2002, just 27 days after the AKP was first elected.
The state of emergency must be published in the Official Gazette and must be approved by the parliament before coming into force. The scope of practices to be exercised is yet to be revealed.
President Erdoğan called on his supporters to take to the streets for a week to denounce the coup attempt and demonstrations are still occurring across the country. Turkey, blaming the coup on Fethullah Gülen’s Cemaat (meaning community), immediately initiating a crackdown on those believed to be linked with Fethullah Gülen and the coup attempt.
These suspensions and dismissals actually began after the corruption probes of December 2013, which is broadly accepted as the onset of the conflict between the AKP and Fethullah Gülen.
The suspensions following the corruption probes were mostly centered on the judiciary and security forces, with limited expansion into other spheres. Following the coup attempt of Friday however, a massive purge of public officials commenced.
Suspensions are taking place in almost all government ministries. Hundreds of Prime Ministry staffers were suspended and 8,777 officials from the Ministry of Interior were also discharged. Three officials and 262 military judges and prosecutors were suspended by National Security Ministry. Yet one of the biggest waves of the purge of ministries took place in the National Education Ministry, where an overwhelming 42,000 officials were suspended.
The education field is known to be one of Gülenists’ main focus points, and a central aspect of their recruitment infrastructure was private education centers, prior to their closure by the AKP.
The purge reached universities as well. Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) requested the resignations of all university deans on Tuesday. All have now resigned reportedly, and the president of YÖK just Tweeted that new deans will be appointed as soon as possible. The deans will reportedly be investigated and those who are found to have no link with Fethullah Gülen will be reinstated.
In a controversial move, YÖK has also issued a decree banning work related travel for academics, calling state workers back from travel abroad and restricting future travel.
Turkey has asserted its legal right to carry out these arrests and suspensions, but some human rights organizations have raised concerns over the right to a fair trial and respect to due process. Amnesty International has called the number of arrests and suspensions since Friday ‘alarming’, and stated that they are monitoring the situation.
Human Rights Watch have stated that: “Turkey’s citizens who took to the streets to defend democracy deserve a response that upholds the rule of law and protects media freedom.”
Debates on reinstating death penalty for those involved in the coup plot have added to these concerns. President Erdoğan, during a speech on Sunday in which his supporters chanted “We want the death sentence”, said that: “In democracies, people’s demands cannot be put aside. This is a right of yours”.
The President said in an interview with CNN that if parliament votes for the reintroduction of the death penalty, he would approve this measure. European Union Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said that the “Introduction of death penalty would mean immediate suspension of accession talks,” however.
Turkey signed Protocol 13 of European Convention on Human Rights in 2004, a provision for the abolishment of the death penalty under any circumstances, and ratified it in 2006.
Meanwhile Turkey has asked for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen from the USA. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım stated on Tuesday that four dossiers have been delivered to the United States and an application has been made to the U.S. Justice Ministry for the arrest of Gülen before his extradition. In a statement, the White House said that the documents would be reviewed to determine whether they met the requirements for a formal extradition request.