No Future For Turkey’s Purged Officials

The humanitarian and socio-economic cost of Turkey’s sweeping purge steadily worsens, with dismissed officials striving to make ends meet, fight against discrimination and arbitrary treatment by authorities.

A riveting report by the Amnesty International after interviewing 61 sacked public employees from different sectors of bureaucracy offers a gripping account of the catastrophic impact of the purge on the affected officials’ livelihoods and their families.

“The shockwaves of Turkey’s post-coup attempt crackdown continue to devastate the lives of a vast number of people who have not only lost their jobs but have had their professional and family lives shattered,” Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher, said over the findings of the report.

“Tainted as ‘terrorists’ and stripped of their livelihoods, a large swathe of people in Turkey are no longer able to continue in their careers and have alternative employment opportunities blocked,” he said in addressing the challenges that dismissed public workers endure in their daily life.

In the absence of alternative employment options, the sacked public servants burn their savings, and depend on support from their families and friends. The far-reaching scope of government decrees leave public officials with few choices and options, pushing them to seek work in irregular economy, which falls short of meeting their needs on financial terms.

One of the main contours of the government policy is to deny dismissed workers privately working in their professions regulated by the state. Teachers, judges, prosecutors are simply forbidden to work in private sector. Similarly, this also holds true for police and military officials who even cannot work as private guards or in defense and security companies.

Teachers, doctors, and professors saw their licenses and diplomas revoked, a factor that ruined their professional careers as they are unable to find a work at the private sector.

“Cutting 100,000 people off from access to work is akin to professional annihilation on a massive scale and is clearly part of the wider political purge against political and perceived opponents,” Mr. Gardner said.

To make matters worse for the purged, cancellation of passports removed the possibility of going abroad and working overseas. More than 100,000 public workers’ passports have been revoked, their rights to mobility and travel crippled.

It stands out as a major theme of grievance for the affected. “They don’t allow us to leave the country, they don’t allow us to work… what do they want me to do?” a former senior female employee at the Presidential office told the Amnesty International. Her case is not an isolated one, echoes a common problem experienced by all other dismissed government workers.

But what rattled most of the victims of the purge is the arbitrariness of the process of dismissals.

According to Amnesty International, the Turkish authorities have failed to set out a “clear criteria for the dismissals or provide any individualized evidence of wrongdoing.” It belies the claim of the officials who portray the cleansing of the bureaucracy as essential measures against terrorism.

A closer scrutiny of the purge reveals “widespread abusive and discriminatory motives” that condition the lists of bureaucrats to be dismissed.

“The blanket nature of the dismissals, the fact that the dismissed include trade union, political or human rights activists and known critics of the government from conservative sections of society, and the broader crackdown on dissent that has included the jailing of more than 120 journalists awaiting trial since he 2016 coup attempt, increase concerns that a great many dismissals were arbitrary, unfair and/or politically motivated,” the report said. 

The problems do not end with dismissal. The government publishes lists of the dismissed on Official Gazette and national media with public fanfare, further making things difficult for the dismissed.

The ramifications are two-fold; one is economic and the other is social. Whenever someone’s name appear on the list of dismissals, life for him\her and their families turn to a nightmare.

An academic told Amnesty International about this horror. “My son didn’t want to go to school, the other children were picking on him, saying that his mother was a terrorist and traitor.”

None of those who were interviewed by Amnesty International were able to obtain an explanation from the authorities for their dismissal.

“The authorities must end these arbitrary dismissals immediately, and reinstate all those who are found not to be guilty of wrongdoing. Those who have been dismissed should be given to a swift and effective appeal procedure in order that they can clear their names, be compensated and return to their careers,” Mr. Gardner added.

No Evidence Presented

One of the key elements of the Amnesty International report was that authorities did not bother to provide an evidence showing dismissed officials have any link to terrorism.

In a striking example, the report noted, “the Constitutional Court, in its decision to dismiss two Constitutional Court judges, did not refer to any evidence against the two and ruled that it was sufficient simply for the Court to be subjectively persuaded of the link between the judges and Gulen movement structures.”

Similarly, “the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), in its decision to dismiss 543 judges and prosecutors, presented a detailed report of Gulen network within the judiciary but no specific evidence against any of the judges and prosecutors dismissed and excluded from public office.”

Instead of a due process or an investigation, the members of judiciary learned about their firing through “the lists appeared on administrative decisions of judicial bodies.”

Apart from failing to provide satisfactory evidence to justify dismissals, the lack of clear criteria for sackings stimulated the emergence of a toxic culture of arbitrary decisions based on personal feud at workplace, political or ideological affiliations or score-settling over any reason.

The report suggested that this point was even admitted by the government. But it did not create an effective appeal mechanism to deal with abuses and wrongful dismissals.

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