Following on from my previous article, ‘Turkey in Turmoil: What could this attempted 'coup' mean for Turkish democracy?’, President Erdoğan has continued to clamp down within Turkey. His most recent action involved the suspension of 15,000 educational staff by the Turkish Ministry of Education, who accuse them of having links to Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric who himself is accused of organising the attempted coup on the 15th July. Amidst calls for the death penalty to be reinstated, top US and European officials have called on the Turkish Government to uphold democracy and the rule of law, or face severe repercussions.

Reinstatement of execution

The death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2004. However, following the coup, in which approximately 230 people were killed and 1,500 injured, many government supporters have called for it to be reinstated to punish those seen to be responsible. President Erdoğan has refused to rule this out, maintaining that ‘the people on the streets have made that request’. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated that this would end Turkey’s bid to join the EU, and they have also been threatened with expulsion from NATO. In the wake of the coup, almost 6,000 people, mostly Military personnel, have been arrested. Also, in addition to the purges of the judiciary,

  • Almost 9,000 police officers have been sacked
  • 1,500 Finance Ministry employees have been dismissed
  • 492 have been fired from the Religious Affairs Directorate
  • More than 1,500 university deans have been ordered to resign
  • The licences of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions have been revoked
  • Travel restrictions have been put in place for thousands of academics
  • Paperwork has been sent to the US to formally request the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, who continues to deny involvement in the attempted coup, and who suggested that President Erdoğan may have staged the coup as an excuse for a crackdown
  • The licences of 24 radio and television channels, deemed to be in support of Gulen but largely just critical of the regime, have also been revoked.

International alarm

John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has called on Turkey to uphold the principles of democracy and human rights while pursuing those involved in the attempted coup, as he stated ‘We caution against a reach that goes beyond that [apprehending the coup plotters]’.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has voiced ‘serious alarm’ at the mass suspension of judges, as some have speculated that the government already had a list of arrests prepared; therefore, there is a possibility of the attempted takeover being a pre-emptive move set in motion by fears of imminent arrests.

Indeed, Human Rights Watch, a human rights NGO, has stated that ‘the speed and scale of the arrests, including of top judges, suggests a purge’, as Erdoğan and his allies used language such as ‘purge’ and ‘cleansing’ in the wake of the events in Ankara and Istanbul.

Despite pressure from the US and Europe to maintain democracy in the wake of the attempted coup, President Erdoğan has increased restrictions on freedom and is fundamentally contradicting everything that the Turkish people stood for in their support of the President on the 15th July.