538 purge victims in Turkey died due to persecution: NGO

A nongovernmental organization founded by victims of Turkey’s post-coup purge has announced that 538 people have died due to a number of factors related to their collective persecution, including sorrow, stress or illness, the Evrensel newspaper reported.

“One hundred thirty-eight people died in prisons, 103 died while traveling to visit their imprisoned relatives, 93 died by suicide and 36 died while attempting to flee the country,” said Münir Korkmaz, a spokesperson for the organization.

The KHK Platform made the announcement in the southern Turkish province of Adana, where they held a press briefing along with KESK, a confederation of labor unions, and the Human Rights Association (İHD) on the occasion of Human Rights Week to raise awareness about the mistreatment of thousands of former civil servants summarily removed from their jobs in the aftermath of a failed military coup in July 2016.

“Decree-law” became a household word in the course of a two-year-long post-coup state of emergency between 2016 and 2018 during which the Turkish government promulgated a series of executive decree-laws that saw the collective dismissal of civil servants from almost all levels of central and local government.

According to Korkmaz, the post-coup period saw the complete dismantlement of the legal principle of “no punishment without law,” as evidenced by the terrorism-related investigations launched into more than 2 million citizens after the coup.

These investigations have often been the subject of widespread criticism by NGOs as well as a number of rulings delivered by the European Court of Human Rights, which faulted Turkey over the retroactive criminalization of acts that were not considered illegal before the coup, such as newspaper subscriptions, union memberships and financial transactions.

“We have been criminalized over our identities, ethnic origins, beliefs and for expressing our opinions,” Korkmaz said. “We reiterate that the decree-laws will be repealed and we will return to our jobs and our freedom.”

Numerous reports released by NGOs and international organizations have highlighted the plight of dismissed civil servants in Turkey, whose treatment has been described as “civil death” as it went beyond removal from their jobs and heavily restricted any other professional prospects through blacklisting on the national social security database in a way that is visible to any potential private sector employers and travel bans that ruled out legal emigration for academic and professional pursuits.

Several reports have also indicated that the purge victims and their family members faced undue exclusion from social programs, including disability benefits.

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