Is there anyone left running the country?
Turkey fired 15,000 state employees, including soldiers, police officers, tax inspectors, and midwives in the latest round of purges since the failed coup of July 15.
Tuesday’s dismissals — which cut across several news outlets and 375 institutions — brings the total number of people fired or suspended in the wake of the coup to 125,000. Of these some 36,000 are awaiting trial in jail, Reuters reports.
And there are more mass purges to come.
“We know they have not been completely cleansed. They are still present in our military, in our police force, in our judiciary,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a conference on policing, referring to the network of supposed followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen that have allegedly infiltrated public institutions.
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Xenophobia in Turkey is well-documented. The 2007 Pew Global Attitudes surveys, for example, showed that negative views of the United States were “widespread and growing” in Turkey, a NATO member and European Union applicant. According to the Pew Research Center:
“Of the 10 Muslim publics surveyed in the 2006 Pew Global Attitudes poll, the Turkish public showed the most negative views, on average, toward Westerners.
“On this scale, the average for Turkey is 5.2, which is a higher level of negativity than is found in the other four Muslim-majority countries surveyed (Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Pakistan) as well as among the Muslim populations in Nigeria, Britain, Germany, France and Spain.
“Large and increasing majorities of Turks also hold unfavorable views of Christians and Jews.”
The 2014 Pew survey of Turkish public opinion also found a major rise in xenophobia, revealing that Turks expressed a strong dislike for just about everyone.
“Such anti-Americanism inherent in the population of an American ally is noteworthy,” wrote Professor Doug Woodwell. “Turkish public opinion as a whole is perhaps the most xenophobic on earth… Whatever the future, at least Americans can rest assured; while Turks may have a lower opinion of the US than any other country, they are equal opportunity haters.”
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Turkey once boasted of having NATO’s second biggest army, equipped with state-of-the-art weapons systems. That powerful army now lacks command: After the failed coup of July 15, more than 8,500 officers and soldiers, including 157 of the 358 generals and admirals in the Turkish military’s ranks, were discharged. The top commanders who were purged had made up 44% of the entire command structure. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that the military’s shipyards and weapons factories will be transferred to civilian authority; military high schools and war academies have been shut; military hospitals will be transferred to health ministry; and the gendarmerie, a key force in anti-terror operations, and the coast guard will be tied to the interior ministry.
Those changes leave behind an army in deep morale shock, with political divisions and polarization. Its ranks are suffering not just trauma but also humiliation. The Turks are lucky their country was not attacked by an enemy (and they are plentiful) at a time like this. Conventional war, however, is not the only threat to Turkey’s security. The Turkish army’s worst decline in modern history came at a time when it was fighting an asymmetrical war against Kurdish insurgents inside and outside of Turkey and, as part of a U.S.-led international campaign, the Islamic State (ISIS) in neighboring Syria.
The attempted coup not only quickly discredited the Turkish military but also left the country once again directionless in foreign policy. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been slamming his NATO ally, the United States, almost daily. His government big guns have been implying an American hand behind the failed coup by a faction of officers they claim are linked to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, once Erdogan’s best political ally. “The putschist [Gulen] is already in your country, you are looking after him. This is a known fact,” Erdogan said, addressing Washington. “You can never deceive my people. My people know who is involved in this plot, and who is the mastermind.”
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In 1853, John Russell quoted Tsar Nicholas I of Russia as saying that the Ottoman Empire was “a sick man — a very sick man,” in reference to the ailing empire’s fall into a state of decrepitude. Some 163 years after that, the modern Turkish state follows in the Ottoman steps.
Turkey, under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule, was staggering between a hybrid democracy and bitter authoritarianism. After the failed putsch of July 15, it is being dragged into worse darkness. The silly attempt gives Erdogan what he wanted: a pretext to go after every dissident Turk. A witch-hunt is badly shattering the democratic foundations of the country.
Taking advantage of the putsch attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency that will run for a period of three months, with an option to extend it for another quarter of a year. Erdogan, declaring the state of emergency, promised to “clean out the cancer viruses like metastasis” in the body called Turkey. With the move for a state of emergency, Turkey also suspended the European Convention on Human Rights, citing Article 15 of the Convention, which stipulates:
“In time of war or other public emergencies threatening the life of the nation, any High Contracting Party may take measures derogating from its obligations under this Convention to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with its other obligations under international law.”
Before July 15, civil liberties in Turkey were de facto in the deep freeze. Now they are de jure in the deep freeze.
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