ISTANBUL — One Turkish woman said her daughter was rejected for a university scholarship because her mom was regarded as a “terrorist” by the authorities. Another woman said her son was terrified to go to school for fear of being bullied over her own troubles with Turkish authorities.
“My son didn't want to go to school,” the woman told Amnesty International, according to a searing report on alleged human rights violations in Turkey following the failed coup last year by suspected loyalists to Fethullah Gulen's religious movement. “The other children were picking on him, saying that his mother was a terrorist and a traitor.”
More than 100,000 Turkish public servants have been dismissed since the attempted coup, including doctors, police officers, teachers, academics, and soldiers. The Amnesty report, released on Monday, attempts to grapple with the deep impact the purge has had on Turkish society.
The report, called “No end in sight: Purged public sector workers denied a future in Turkey,” alleges that the dismissals were carried out arbitrarily on the basis of vague “connections to terrorist organizations” without clear criteria. Notably, said the report, little if no specific evidence has been presented to justify the dismissal of public servants.
“My manager told me that the intelligence report had come back negative, and that was it,” a dismissed police officer told Amnesty International in an interview.
Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey, told BuzzFeed News that counting only the dismissed officials and their families, at least half a million people have been affected by the purge. Under a current state of emergency declared last July and extended last month, officials cannot challenge their dismissals in the courts. On Sunday, at a conference in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the state of emergency will continue indefinitely.
“How can you ask about the removal of the state of emergency?” Erdogan said. “It will not be removed until we reach peace and prosperity.”
According to the report, more than 24,000 police officers, more than 6,000 doctors and other employees of the Ministry of Health, and more than 5,000 academics and other higher education employees have been dismissed. The first decree was issued on July 22, 2016, to dismiss public sector workers with alleged ties to the Gulen movement, but the purge has since been expanded to include supporters of the Kurdish movement, leftists, and even liberal opponents of the government.
“Some of Turkey’s most prestigious university faculties have been decimated by these purges and what looks like a politically motivated assault on them,” Andrew Gardner told BuzzFeed News. “In the short and the long term, the impact on public services is a major concern. Thirty thousand teachers were dismissed. How to replace this level of experience and this huge number of teachers? Obviously it will be impossible.”
Ministry of Justice officials told Amnesty International that the dismissals were carried out on the basis of behavior which involved a concrete “incriminating” action by an individual evidencing a link to a “terrorist organization.”
But some of those purged told Amnesty they were questioned over whether anyone in their family had links to Gulen movement. Other dismissed public servants alleged to Amnesty that their managers used the crackdown as an excuse to settle old scores. “If anyone wants to erase you from the institution, they just give your name as a Gulenist,” one former local government employee told Amnesty.
Passports of dismissed public sector workers have also been cancelled by decree, removing any possibility of moving abroad. One scholar who went overseas before her dismissal said that the Turkish Embassy in Berlin refused to provide her consular services.
“Vast numbers of people have been dismissed in a completely arbitrary process without any evidence being presented. It erodes the belief in justice and the rule of law,” said Gardner. “And that is a dangerous thing.”