Sat Nov 12, 2016 | 9:29am EST
Turkey has halted the activities of 370 non-governmental groups including human rights and children’s organizations over their alleged terrorist links, the government said as it widens purges following a failed coup in July.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus defended the ban on the activities of the NGOs operating across the country, which was announced by the Interior Ministry late on Friday.
“The organizations are not shut down, they are being suspended. There is strong evidence that they are linked to terrorist organizations,” Kurtulmus said.
“Turkey has to fight terrorism on so many different fronts. We are trying to clear the state institutions from Gulenists. At the same time we are fighting against Kurdish militants and Islamic State,” Kurtulmus told reporters on Saturday.
More than 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended from their jobs and 37,000 arrested since the failed putsch for suspected links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the plot. He denies the accusations.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan calls the exiled cleric’s network the “Gulenist Terror Organisation” and says the unprecedented crackdown is crucial to rid state institutions of infiltrators seeking to topple the government.
Of the 370 associations affected by Friday’s ban, 153 were allegedly linked to the Gulen movement, 190 to the Kurdish militant group PKK, 19 to the far-leftist militant group DHKP-C, and eight to Islamic State, the interior ministry said.
It added that investigations into the groups were continuing and pledged “determination to fight all kinds of structures, groups and institutions with links to terror organizations.”
Among the groups affected were bodies representing lawyers and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations vowed to “take a stand against any unlawful intervention on legal firms.”
“It’s impossible for us to find the closure or activity cessation of organizations without court rulings democratic,” it added in a statement.
The scale of the purges has alarmed Turkey’s Western allies and foreign investors.
Human rights groups and opposition parties say Erdogan, who traces his political roots to a banned Islamist party, is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle all dissent in the European Union-candidate nation.
(Reporting by Ece Toksabay and Can Sezer; Editing by Helen Popper)
Erdogan Continues The Endless Nightmare
ERDOĞAN STRIKES TURKEY’S LAST OPPOSITION
By Elliot Ackerman
NOVEMBER 11, 2016
On Thursday morning, at precisely 9:05 a.m., the Turkish Republic stood still. For sixty seconds, sirens wailed across Istanbul, ferry horns resounded along the Bosphorus, and traffic stopped in front of Dolmabahçe Palace, the one-time home of the sultans. This is how Turkey marked the seventy-eighth anniversary of the death of its founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
The brief pause came after ten fraught days for the country. On October 31st, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, continuing to purge his opposition under the guise of the state of emergency he declared following a failed coup attempt, in July, ordered the imprisonment of the editor of the left-of-center daily Cumhuriyet, along with a dozen of the newspaper’s leading journalists. He then ordered the detention of lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P., including the party’s co-chairs, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ.
The official justification for the actions against both the newspaper and the H.D.P. leadership came in the form of terrorism charges. Erdoğan’s government claims that Cumhuriyet has ties to Fethullah Gülen, the reclusive cleric who has lived in exile, in Pennsylvania, since 1999, and that the newspaper was involved in the July coup attempt, which many Turks believe Gülen orchestrated. The H.D.P. lawmakers, meanwhile, have been accused of collusion with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., an armed nationalist group that has fought the Turkish government for decades. Evidence for the charges against both the journalists and the lawmakers is questionable.
Erdoğan has long-standing grievances against both Cumhuriyet and the H.D.P. In late 2014, after Turkish border gendarmes unwittingly stopped Turkish intelligence agents from crossing the border into Syria with an arms shipment, Cumhuriyet broke the story, broadcasting video of the incident on its Web site. The ensuing controversy stymied Erdoğan’s support of pro-Islamist rebels inside of Syria, briefly undermining Turkey’s influence in that country’s civil war. Even worse, from Erdoğan’s perspective, was that his Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P., then performed poorly in the national elections held in June, 2015, falling short of a governing majority for the first time since coming to power, in 2002. Many Turks voted for the pro-Kurdish H.D.P. as a way to register a protest against Erdoğan’s excesses.
The A.K.P. retook its majority in a snap election held last November, but the H.D.P. retained its reputation as Turkey’s most credible opposition party—making Erdoğan’s latest actions all the more devastating for it. In the wake of the failed coup, Demirtaş, one of the party co-chairs, took a principled position against the plotters, standing in solidarity with Erdoğan’s government and the concept of Turkish democracy. “We have never seen a coup bring stability and democracy,” he said in July. But he then went on to issue a warning about the state of emergency that Erdoğan had called for: “The government said that the state of emergency will only be aimed at the coup plotters….If the authorities start to ban speeches, demonstrations, or opposition media under cover of any operation against the putschists … we will understand that the use of the state of emergency is being abused.” That warning now appears prophetic.
Erdoğan’s government has long done little to hide its neo-Ottoman aspirations. Erdoğan’s ultimate goal is a constitutional referendum granting him unprecedented executive powers, but to pass it he needs a two-thirds majority vote from Turkey’s five-hundred-and-fifty-seat parliament. His A.K.P. party currently holds three hundred and seventeen seats, meaning he needs to pick up an additional fifty votes. The H.D.P., which holds fifty-nine seats, had represented an obstacle. But with its leadership now under lock and key, the party’s seats are in limbo. All eyes in Turkey now turn to the remaining non-A.K.P. lawmakers in parliament. Will they go along with Erdoğan to avoid the H.D.P.’s fate? If so, Erdoğan may soon hold power more akin to an Ottoman sultan than to the leader of the republic as envisioned by Atatürk, the man the country mourned this week.
Elliot Ackerman is a writer based in Istanbul. He is the author of the novel “Green on Blue.”
Tags: 370 non-governmental groups, children's organizations, Cumhuriyet, Democratic, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, Erdogan, European Union-candidate nation, failed coup attempt, Fethullah Gülen, free press, Gulenists, H.D.P., human rights, journalists, Justice and Development Party, Kurdish, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, NGOs, PKK, terrorist organizations, Turkey, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Union of Turkish Bar Associations