A total of 20,312 military personnel have been summarily dismissed from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Cdr. Şebnem Aktop, press and public relations officer of Turkey’s Defense Ministry, at a press conference on Sunday.
According to Aktop, investigations are ongoing into a further 3,718 military personnel.
Turkey experienced a controversial military coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016 which, according to many, was a false flag operation aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.
The abortive putsch killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. The next morning, after announcing that the coup had been suppressed, the Turkish government immediately started a wide-ranging purge of military officers, judges, police officers, teachers and other government officials that ultimately led to the dismissal of more than 150,000 public servants from their jobs.
As part of the massive crackdown, 150 of the TSK’s 326 generals and admirals, 4,145 judges and prosecutors, more than 33,000 police officers and in excess of 5,000 academics were fired from their jobs. More than 540,000 people were detained and over 80,000 people were arrested or imprisoned. One hundred sixty-four media organizations, 1,058 educational institutions and close to 2,000 NGOs were shut down without any due process.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Turkish cleric living in the US, of masterminding the coup attempt. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity. Following the allegations, Gülen called on the Turkish government to allow for an international investigation.
Turkish President Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following the attempted coup.