Turkey Purges 8,000 Public Workers, Threatens To Revoke Citizenships

Turkey has issued a decree to revoke the citizenship of its nationals abroad if they don’t heed calls to return within three months, a step that brings post-coup crackdown into a new, unprecedented level as the government moved to dismiss more than 8,000 public servants in latest emergency decrees.

Turkey’s incessant post-coup purge has taken new proportions after recent emergency decrees shut down 83 NGOs in an escalating crackdown on the civil society and again fired thousands of public servants.

The purged public personnel include doctors, police officers, prison guards, electric technicians, cooks, drivers, court clerks, Qur’an instructors, academics, judges and military officers.

The measures are so punishing that these individuals basically lose their tools for survival in Turkey. The decrees say the people dismissed from their jobs cannot apply for a public job again — regardless of their conviction in a court — and they lose all their titles and benefits. Passports of these purged individuals are also revoked and they will be ejected from public housing in 15 days.

Three new emergency decrees were published in Official Gazette on Friday, two days after the government extended the state of emergency for another three months. In total, 8,323 were fired, BBC reported. Pro-government TGRT Haber put the number at 8,399.

In the latest round of purges, the government sacked 2,687 police officers, 1,699 officials from the Justice Ministry, 838 from the Health Ministry, 389 from the Ministry of Finance, 649 academics and 135 officials from the religious affairs directorate. More than 300 officers from Air Force and Navy were also dismissed at a time when Turkey struggles to cope with arduous challenges on multiple fronts amidst the surge in terrorist attacks inside the country.

With the latest purges, the total number of people dismissed from their jobs since the emergency rule was declared back in last July rises to 135,000. At least 42,000 people currently remain behind bars and more than 100,000 were kept in detention for different period of times in connection to the failed coup.

Experienced senior officials within the Turkish national police and the military were decimated with sweeping purge campaign since a failed coup last summer, leaving Turkey extremely vulnerable to threats from the Islamic State and the Kurdish militants.

Additionally, the government also dismissed 655 employees of prisons, including wardens and guards, fueling fears about the mistreatment of inmates and prisoners who were detained as part of the post-coup crackdown. Families of imprisoned military officers express concern over well-being of their relatives amid claims of widespread mistreatment and rampant torture. The purged officials in prisons also include cooks, people responsible for heating systems, electricians, drivers and psychologists. Dozens of forensic medicine doctors were also among the purged in the latest decrees, casting doubt over autopsy reports of those found dead in prisons. It is also making it difficult to prove claims of mistreatment and torture in prisons, which are overcrowded with 42,000 additional prisoners in the post-coup era.

The decrees targeted almost every government department, police, judiciary, academia, and trampled on once vibrant civil society. Turkey is governed by emergency rule since July when a small faction within the army tried to topple the government. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government not only pushed back the putschists, but also, according to critics, launched Erdogan’s counter-coup.

Slow-motion evaporation of civil society has evidently been on display as hundreds of NGOs were shuttered with every new decree. Kurdish groups, associations linked with U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, other environmental and medical NGOs have been targeted in the unabated crackdowns.

Just to name a few of the targeted NGOs may give an idea about the scope of the decrees that decimated the civil society. Anatolia Medical Ontology Foundation, Gastrointestinal Oncology Foundation, Health for Everyone Association, Foundation for Aid to Terror Victims and Their Families and scores of others about health, sports, education and aid are among the targeted NGOs.

A foundation that dedicated itself to ensure that justice is restored regarding a gut-wrenching incident in which 34 civilians were killed by a botched airstrike in last days of 2011 on Iraqi border also became a victim of the purge. Association of Justice for Roboski, Peace for Earth fought hard to find those responsible for the deadly airstrike that pummeled a group of villagers crossing the border, shattering them into pieces in one of the gruesome tragedies in the region.

The investigation was diluted, and the case against officials eventually dropped, to the dismay and fury of families of the victims who later found the NGO to prolong their pursuit for justice. But their legal and civilian battle ended on Friday with the decrees.

The zeal of the government in targeting NGOs appears to know no bounds that it even shut down two soccer clubs in southeastern Turkey. Cizrespor and Sirnak Belediyespor compete in Third Division and Amateur League respectively. With the shutdown of legal owners of the clubs, the teams seem to be unable to maintain their sports activities.

The academic world has been hit hard again. Those academics, including Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, former chairman of a leading human rights group MAZLUMDER, who signed a declaration calling for revival of the Kurdish peace process were all dismissed. The government’s systematic targeting of the signatory academics became clearly evident with a new, total strategy; dismissal of them from universities. More than 6,000 academics lost their jobs since July.

The measures have repercussions also for individual privacy on digital platforms and the Internet as the police is granted authority to obtain someone’s account information on the Internet to track their digital activities.

It serves as a complementary measure to assist government’s systematic efforts to curb the Internet and social media in Turkey to prevent the free flow of news through mediums normally outside of direct control of the Turkish government. In yet another step, the government is able to revoke licenses of media outlets on national security grounds.

Furthermore, the government will be able to revoke the license of a media outlet if it fails to comply with a gag order for three times. The Turkish government employs gag order on media over reporting about terrorist attacks on a frequent basis, often rekindles questions about the lack of free debate over security matters.