Former Turkish police officer experienced social alienation and family estrangement prior to his suicide

News reports have revealed that a former police officer who died by suicide last week had experienced social alienation and estrangement from his family after being summarily fired by a government decree after a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The Bold Medya news website reported that former officer Mehmet Ali Gündoğan was fired after a colleague secretly collected information against him, which was later handed over to authorities. In the document there was information on Gündoğan’s private life, and it mentioned that his daughter was enrolled in a private school linked to the Gülen movement.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, 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. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Gündoğan’s name was on a list of five other police officers who were accused of being members of the movement and who were eventually dismissed from their jobs.

After his dismissal, Gündoğan’s neighbors, friends and family members turned their backs on him, saying he “must have done something wrong to have been dismissed.” He could not even sit in a cafe in his neighborhood because his old friends would get up and leave, implying he was a terrorist.

Gündoğan’s mother and sister tried to support him financially and psychologically; however, his other siblings severed their ties with him. Due to financial problems Gündoğan was renting his brother’s house but was evicted from there, too. Eventually he had to move into the basement of a run-down house.

Gündoğan’s life was in a downward spiral as he battled depression, and he stopped answering his telephone or seeing people.

The father-of-two also separated from his wife in the months after his dismissal because he was displaying outbursts of anger. His two daughters went to live with their mother, and Gundogan was completely estranged from his family.

At least 100 former public servants in Turkey have died by suicide as a result of the post-coup purge since 2016.

Following the failed coup, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

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.

The government also shut down 164 media organizations, 1,058 educational institutions and 1,769 NGOs.

Former public servants were not only fired from their jobs; 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 Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, the two-year-long state of emergency declared after the failed putsch caused immense suffering among public servants who were dismissed from their jobs by the government as well as their families.

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), the 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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