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Captain Renault: Round up the usual suspects.
Casablanca (1942)
The Grand National Assembly building in Ankara was severely damaged

July 2016 - Coup / Mutiny - Now What ?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wasted little time before launching a purge of his enemies. The conflict between Erdogan and Gulen is a conflict between two flavors of Sufi Islam. Erdogan represents a more traditional "tarikat" - the Naksibendis - which emphasized Sunni orthodoxy and discouraged heterodox “innovative” practices and groups. Fethullah Gulen leads a Cemaat, a more recent phenomenon, emerging in the 19th century, with far less emphasis on ceremony than tarikats, and lacking the sheikh-disciple relationship that is central to tarikats.

The Great Purge

Erdogan promised on his arrival at Istanbul Ataturk Airport to punish the coup plotters who had tried to kill him. “They will pay a heavy price for this,” said Erdogan. “This uprising is a gift from God to us, because this will be a reason to cleanse our army,” the president told supporters at the airport. Few regional analysts doubt that he would use the failed coup to strengthen his presidential powers and to cleanse not only the military but other institutions suspected of harboring opponents.

Addressing his supporters in Istanbul, Erdogan called on the US to either arrest or extradite Fethullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic cleric who he accuses of being behind the coup attempt. He told the crowd: "The army is ours, not that of the parallel structure [behind the coup]. I am chief commander." Erdogan frequently referred to "masterminds" who he says were bent on breaking up Turkey, in what appeared a veiled reference to the West in general, and more specifically, the United States. Labor Minister Suleyman Soylu accused Washington of being behind the coup attempt.

Erdogan said : “From members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors to those in the Constitutional Court, people are being dismissed and arrested. Is that enough? No, it is not. This had to happen, but it is not enough.”

An attack 17 July 2016 by Erdogan supporters on members of the Alevi religious minority in Malatya, in eastern Turkey, raised fear among rights activists, dissidents, Kurds and religious minorities of widening polarization after the failed coup. News reports said pro-Erdogan demonstrators in Malatya also attacked a Protestant church and a Catholic church in the northern Black Sea city of Trabzon.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted the country's armed forces and National Intelligence Organization to be brought under the presidency's control in the wake of the failed coup of 15 July 2016. The remarks came after Erdogan was cited as saying by television news channels that the move would require a constitutional change and support by major opposition parties. The developments came as a meeting of Turkey's Supreme Military Council (YAS), the highest body responsible for appointments in the armed forces, was expected to agree on a sweeping overhaul of the armed forces.

The Turkish government ordered by decree the dismissal of 149 generals and admirals, 40 per cent of military personnel in that rank, as the Supreme Military Council convened to elect replacements. Turkish news agency Anadolu said that the recent orders aimed to dismiss soldiers who were members of, or have links to "the Fetullah Gulen terrorist organisation." The total number of Turkish military personnel dismissed from their post topped 1684; the majority from the Turkish Army, including 87 generals, 726 officers and 256 sub-officers expelled from duty. Furthermore, 32 admirals as well as 122 officers and sub-officers were ordered to relinquish their posts in the Navy as well as 30 generals and 431 other personnel who were dismissed from the Turkish Air Force.

Turkish authorities suspended nearly 8,000 police officers in the wake of the failed military coup attempt, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on 18 July 2016, citing the Interior Ministry. More than 7,500 people, including members of judiciary and military, had been detained in sweeps across the country in connection with the July 15 coup attempt. Turkish authorities also removed dozens of governors of towns, state media reported as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to continue the “cleansing.”

Erdogan has promised to rid Turkey of people involved in the coup attempt. "At every level of government, the period of cleaning this virus will continue," said Erdogan. "Like the cancer virus, it spreads all around the government." Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported 19 July 2016 that courts had ordered 85 generals and admirals jailed pending trial over their roles in a failed coup attempt. Dozens of others were still being questioned. The arrested included former air force commander Gen. Akin Ozturk, alleged to be the ringleader of the July 15 uprising, and Gen. Adem Hududi, commander of Turkey’s 2nd Army, charged with countering threats to Turkey from Syria, Iran and Iraq.

State media said 18 July 2016 that about 14,000 people had been suspended from their government positions or detained on suspicion of being involved in the coup, including members of the judiciary, police officers, high-ranking officials, members of the military, and at least 100 generals and admirals.

By 19 July 2016 authorities had suspended or detained close to 35,000 soldiers, police and judges since the coup bid on 15 July 2016. By 20 July 2016 around 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers had been suspended or detained since the coup attempt. By the next day, nearly 70,000 government or military employees were affected in total, including close to 10,000 arrests. The list of those to be eliminated was based on information provided by people close to or obedient to the AKP. The government seized the opportunity and put it into action.

Turkish authorities on 19 July 2016 fired tens of thousands of employees from the education and interiors ministries and shut down media outlets deemed to be supportive of a US-based cleric accused of plotting the coup bid. In rapid-fire reports, Turkish media announced that the Ministry of Education had axed 15,200 personnel and Turkey's Board of Higher Education had requested the resignations of more than 1,000 university deans. The Interior Ministry announced more than 8,777 employees had been fired. In addition, 257 people working at the office of the prime minister were dismissed and the Directorate of Religious Affairs announced it had sacked 492 staff including clerics, preachers and religious teachers.

By 20 July 2016 some 29,000 government employees had been suspended, including more than 6,300 soldiers and 3,000 members of the judiciary. Over 21,000 teachers at private institutions had their licenses revoked. The Higher Education Board ordered all 1,577 university deans at state and private institutitions to resign as part of a crackdown following the failed coup, banned academics from leaving for work trips abroad, and urged those overseas to return home "within the shortest possible time". The Interior Ministry dismissed nearly 9,000 workers. Another 1,500 in the Finance Ministry were fired, as were hundreds more in the religious affairs directorate, the family and social policy ministry and prime minister's office. The National Intelligence Organization suspended 100 staff from their duties, a senior Turkish official said. Most of those fired were not active agents.

On 20 July 2016 Turkey formally charged 99 generals and admirals in connection with the weekend's thwarted coup attempt - just under a third of the country's 356 top military officers.

By 15 August 2016 Erdogan’s government had purged some 82,000 people from government positions and detained 26,000 people accused of being Gulenists. On 17 August 2016 Turkey was set to release 38,000 prisoners in an apparent move to make space for thousands of people arrested after the coup, as more putsch-related dismissals and arrests were taking place. Nearly 20,000 people had been arrested since last month’s coup attempt. By the end of October 2016 more than 100,000 people had been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested over the coure of three and a half months. A further 10,000 civil servants were dismissed and 15 more media outlets ordered closed on on 30 October 2016 over suspected links to Gulen's network and militant groups.

The Turkish Education Ministry was set to close over 1,600 private education institutions allegedly linked to the outlawed Gulen movement, the Hurriyet Daily News reported 22 July 2016. Legal action has been taken against 936 private schools, 449 student dormitories and 284 private institutions. Work permits for some 27,157 personnel have been rescinded by the ministry and they have been barred from working at other private schools.

Turkish lawmakers 21 July 2016 approved President Erdogan's call for a three-month state of emergency in a move that paved the way for further purging of his opponents after a coup attempt Friday failed to topple him and his government. The state of emergency will be in place for a period of three months, Erdogan announced in a televised address 20 July 2016 that followed marathon meetings, first with his national security council and later with his cabinet. Erdogan said the state of emergency’s purpose is “to be able to take the most efficient steps to return to democracy and rule of law.” The Turkish leader said the armed forces would not take control of the country during this time. Turkey suspended parts of the European Convention on Human Rights under the state of emergency, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said. A far-reaching state of emergency like this one has never been declared on nationwide level before. Martial law was imposed across the country for three years following a successful military coup in 1980, which saw stricter controls on individuals' movements.

The first state of emergency decree ordered the closure of 1,043 private schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 19 trade unions, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions over suspected links to cleric Fethullah Gulen.

On 12 November 2016 Turkey suspended the activities of 370 civic groups, including women's and children's rights organizations, as the Ankara government continues its roundup of individuals and groupings with alleged ties to a failed coup attempt four months earlier. The civic groups learned about the government move when police in Istanbul began raiding their offices and seizing files. Lawyers at several community-based legal organizations told The Associated Press the police gave no explanation for the action. The head of a children's rights organization also said authorities provided no information. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus on Saturday defended the crackdown and said it was justified under state-of-emergency regulations in effect since July. He said there was "strong evidence" linking the suspended organizations to alleged terrorist networks.

An Interior Ministry statement said 153 suspended associations were suspected of links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accused of playing a central role in the July 15 failed coup attempt. Another 190 were said to have ties to the outlawed Kurdish militant group known as the PKK, and the remaining suspensions targeted groups with alleged ties to either a far-left militant group or to Islamic State extremists.

More than 100,000 people, including academics and journalists, had been removed from their jobs since government forces crushed the coup attempt days after it was launched. More than 35,000 others, including military officers and opposition politicians, had been arrested for suspected ties to Gulen, who denied any involvement in the plot.

The Turkish government eliminated about 15,000 employees from the military, police and the civil service on 22 November 2016 as part of an investigation into the failed coup attempt. The government also closed more than 500 institutions, nine news outlet, and 19 health establishments. Authorities had arrested at least 36,000 people and removed more than 100,000 others from government jobs. “We know that the state is not fully cleared of this treacherous gang. They are still within the armed forces. They are still within the police. They are still within the judiciary and they are still within the various sections of the state," Erdogan said. “We won't allow them to destroy this country nor to crush the people. We will do whatever is necessary,” he added.

Since the July 2016 failed coup, the military had been hit by a succession of major purges within its ranks. According to figures published by Anadolu, 151 of the 358 generals and admirals in the Turkish Armed Forces remained in police custody. Turkey's top military council promoted 99 colonels to the rank of general or admiral. Nearly half its senior commanders had been arrested or dismissed, while its army special forces and air force have been hit especially hard. Over 300 of its 600 combat pilots have been arrested or dismissed.

The Supreme Measure of Social Defense

Adding to fears that the government’s reaction to the coup would match Erdogan’s threats and his record of ruthlessness, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the government was considering legal changes to bring the death penalty back “to make sure this does not happen again.”

Speaking 17 July 2016 to people who called for the death penalty outside his home in Istanbul, Erdogan said the use of capital punishment cannot be delayed, saying "We cannot ignore this demand." His speech was punctuated by frequent calls of "we want the death penalty" from the large crowd, to which Erdogan responded: "We hear your request. In a democracy, whatever the people want they will get." Erdogan said he would discuss it with opposition parties but that "We will not delay this decision for long. Because those who attempt a coup in this country must pay."

No judicial executions had taken place Turkey since left-wing militant Hidir Aslan was hanged on Oct 25, 1984 in the wake of the 1980 military coup. Capital punishment was legally abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey's bid to join the European Union. Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz said the reintroduction of the death penalty would be "absolutely unacceptable" in an interview with state media ahead of his meeting with his European counterparts.

There are “deaths worse than death” for the plotters of the July 15 coup attempt compared to death penalty, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 16 August 2016. “The death penalty is a one-time death, but there are deaths worse than death for the coup plotters. That is an objective and fair judgement,” Yildirim said , adding that they would not act with the feeling of revenge.

International Reaction

Former US ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, told VOA he was very concerned Erdogan might use the attempted coup as a pretext for becoming more authoritarian than he has been. "Erdogan, who has already shown some very strong anti-democratic tendencies before the coup, will use the coup plot and the attempt of the generals to take power as a justification for cracking down on society even more. And I think we may see a more restrictive environment for Turkey — less press freedom, less political openness".

"We firmly urge the government of Turkey to maintain calm and stability throughout the country," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on 18 July 2016. "We also urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation's democratic institutions and the rule of law. We will certainly support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice but we also caution against a reach that goes well beyond that," Kerry said, speaking in Brussels after meeting with EU counterparts.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest stressed U.S. support for Turkey's "democratically elected" government and said Washington strongly values "the important relationship" with its NATO ally. But he said the government should “be supportive of due process and freedoms that are outlined in the Turkish constitution that include freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of assembly.”

More than 250 people were killed in the attempt as rogue soldiers commandeered warplanes, helicopters and tanks in a bid to take control of key state institutions. Turkey declared a state of emergency after the failed coup and carried out a large-scale crackdown which alarmed Ankara’s Western allies. Some 292,000 people have been detained over alleged links to Gulen, nearly 100,000 of them jailed pending trial, Anadolu cited interior minister Suleyman Soylu as saying. Some 150,000 civil servants were sacked or suspended after the coup, with some 20,000 expelled from the military. Courts have handed down more than 2,500 life sentences.

On 26 November 2020 a Turkish court jailed 337 former pilots and other suspects for life over plot to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a failed coup attempt four years earlier. Nearly 500 defendants were accused of carrying out the attempt to overthrow the government on July 15, 2016, from an airbase near the capital Ankara. The trial was the highest-profile of dozens of court cases targeting thousands of people accused of involvement in the coup attempt, which Ankara blamed on the supporters of the United States-based Muslim preacher and businessman, Fethullah Gulen. A total of 475 defendants were on trial, 365 of them in custody. Out of the 337 life sentences given, 291 were aggravated life sentences – the most severe punishment in Turkish courts – meaning there is no possibility of parole,

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 12:05:05 ZULU