78 post-coup purge victims or their family members have died by suicide since 2016: report

A report drafted by Rafet Irmak and Aziz Yıldırım, two former academics purged by the Turkish government after a failed coup in 2016, reveals that 78 purge victims or their family members have died by suicide since October 4, 2016.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government declared a state of emergency (OHAL) following the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016 that remained in effect until July 19, 2018. During the state of emergency the AKP carried out a purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight by issuing a number of government decrees, known as KHKs, firing 130,000 civil servants from their jobs due to their real or alleged connections to “terrorist organizations.”

According to the report, titled “Suicides in the OHAL Period – Gravestones as Evidence of Genocide,” depression and difficulties in daily life caused by the emergency decree-laws led to a number of suicides. The report stated that the rate of suicide among post-coup purge victims and their families is 35 percent higher than the suicide rate announced by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat). Irmak and Yıldırım said they omitted unexpected deaths in prisons and victims of the purges who took their own lives after fleeing abroad.

Irmak pointed out that the report aims to draw attention to the people who have suffered physically or financially from the government oppression since the failed coup. “We do not want the names of the people who took their lives because of this oppression to be forgotten, and we want to prevent suicides from happening in the future,” Irmak said.

Irmak also criticized the discriminatory rhetoric towards victims of the decree-laws in society and said this must change, otherwise suicides would increase. He also said they proposed that the Ministry of Health provide free psychiatric services to purge victims regardless of the type of health insurance they carry, if any.

Twenty-six-year-old Nahit Emre Günay recently died by suicide due to depression caused by the imprisonment of his father in the post-coup purge.

More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

Turkey’s former public servants were not only fired from their jobs after the attempted coup in 2016; they were also prohibited from working again in the public sector and getting a passport. The government also made it difficult for them to work formally in the private sector. Notes were put on the social security database about dismissed public servants to deter potential employers.

According to a joint report by the Justice for Victims Platform and Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, an MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a prominent defender of human rights, the two-year-long state of emergency declared after the abortive putsch caused immense suffering among public servants who were dismissed from their jobs by the government as well as their families. Gergerlioğlu claims that these suicides are the result of a systematic policy towards the victims of the purges.

According to the victims’ family members taking part in a survey, the biggest problem they have been facing is economic hardship (97.9 percent) followed by psychological problems (88.6 percent), loss of social prestige and social exclusion (83.7 percent), disintegration of social circles (83.1 percent), unemployment/lack of employment (80.4 percent) and lack of social security (73.2 percent).

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