The last time we checked in with aspiring tyrant Recep Tayyip Erdogan he was busy shutting down businesses which might be “associated” with whoever launched a coup against him earlier this year. That was after he had eliminated huge swaths of police officers, judges, lawyers, teachers, doctors and other professionals who were unfortunate enough to wind up on his enemies list.
You might think that by this time he’d have locked the country down fairly well, but you would apparently be mistaken. The purge is still going on and the BBC reports that thousands of additional police chiefs have been dismissed and/or detained.
Turkey has suspended almost 13,000 police officers for their alleged links with the US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen. The latest wave adds to the 100,000 or so civil servants dismissed or suspended since July’s failed coup.
Mr Gulen denies the government’s accusation that he or his supporters orchestrated the coup.
The government in turn rejects claims it is using the coup as an excuse to get rid of its opponents. It insists those without proven links to the coup will be freed.
Another 13,000 police officers, most of them chiefs? The numbers in Turkey passed the stage of being “grim” some time ago. As the BBC counts the tally, we’re now up to more than 100,000 civil servants removed from their positions and an unknown number of them are locked away from the prying eyes of what remains of the media there. (In case you missed the news last week, Erdogan also shut down another twenty television and radio stations.) The citizens are essentially on a media lockdown with only state sanctioned broadcasts reaching the public. If it weren’t for social media (which is also limited as much as they can manage) the Turks would essentially be in the dark.
Many of the promises coming out of Erdogan’s government these days probably sound familiar. Thousands of citizens have been “detained” and are out of contact with their families, but the government assured everyone again this week that they would be freed if they aren’t found to have “proven links to the coup.” That’s a very convenient description because there is nobody left to do the work of proving or disputing such accusations except for Erdogan and his henchmen. He’s now extended the “state of emergency” for another three months.
What does that mean? During this period the legislature is essentially nothing more than an advisory board. (And you can bet that they all know to be very cautious about the type of advice they’re giving if they don’t want to end up with their feet in a vat of acid.) The president and his cabinet are empowered to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and able to restrict or suspend rights and freedom. This is a big page right out of the strongman’s playbook. The idea that all of the detained individuals will be given any sort of a fair hearing and be released is a pipe dream. Turkey is under the thumb of a dictator right now and thus far the United States government is remaining almost entirely silent on the subject and treating them as a trusted ally.