Turkey’s 2016-2018 state of emergency a ‘social genocide program’

A two-year-long state of emergency declared after an abortive coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016 caused immense suffering among civil servants who were dismissed from their jobs by the government and their families, a report jointly released on Monday by the Justice for Victims Platform and member of parliament Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu reveals.

Brain drain, increased poverty, loss of a highly qualified workforce, despair and loss of faith in the future of the country were some of the major negative impacts of the state of emergency, the report found.

According to the 1,500-page report, 50 percent of the victims of the mass dismissal felt obligated to move to a new location. Forty-six percent are still unemployed. Forty-four percent have at least one relative under arrest. The report further shows that 91.2 percent of the victims want to leave Turkey and live abroad.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions, summarily dismissing some 130,000 civil servants including academics, teachers, diplomats, military personnel and police officers with emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny. The purge hit followers of the faith-based Gülen movement, highly critical of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the hardest.

With the decree-laws, the dismissed civil servants have also been barred from taking up positions in the public sector.

“The decree-law victims not only were removed from their jobs but also barred from seeking employment in the private sector and denied access to social benefits,” Gergerlioğlu said during a press briefing.

The survey was conducted on 3,305 people, 2,748 of whom were victims of the mass dismissal, 332 were relatives of victims and 225 were individuals not personally affected by the purge.

The report found that 98.2 percent of the victims had not been the subject of a judicial or criminal investigation before their dismissal.

The dismissed civil servants lost 70 percent of their average monthly income, while their relatives also incurred a 50 percent loss in income, a circumstance that reduced them to dire financial straits.

According to the report 99.1 percent of the victims are college or university graduates or holders of master’s or doctoral degrees, which means an immense loss of human resources for Turkey’s public administration.

Another striking outcome of the survey is that an overwhelming majority of the victims who define themselves as religious are after their victimization more inclined to the leftist, socialist, social democrat or secular/humanist worldview.

According to the “victim relatives” taking part in the survey, the biggest problem they have been facing is economic hardship (97.9 percent) followed respectively 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).

The report brought also together the testimonies of purge victims about their ill-treatment in police custody or the difficulties they have experienced since their dismissal.

“During the detention, the police interrogated a few hours without a lawyer during the deposition, made [the ruling] party propaganda and threatened me with my family. I had a nervous breakdown. They said, ‘you cannot speak, we write, you nod your head to confirm.” As I have a heart condition, diabetes and blood pressure I took my medications in the morning that day, yet my condition worsened and they had to call an ambulance. There was no lawyer present during my deposition except for the last ten minutes. Then they sent a lawyer and I signed my deposition in his presence as if he had been present from the very beginning.”

“We were kept in the gym for 8 days. Our handcuffs were never removed. We slept on the floor. We were not allowed to meet anyone. Every night, we were rolled called at 1 am. We were subjected to ill-treatment by the police.”

“They did their best to make us feel bad. We were treated as convicted criminals in violation of the presumption of innocence. I was detained for 8 days. WC and bathrooms were in filth. The bathrooms were without doors.”

“The police couldn’t open Facebook on my phone. He said that if he does not open it, he would not know if I had praised FETO [a derogatory term used by the government to refer to the Gülen movement] with my posts, therefore I would be arrested. As a result, I was arrested.”

“I had to depose under police duress. Having a lawyer has not made any difference. I slept for 12 days on the ground. I was threatened with my husband and family while I was in custody. ”

“I was given no food until 6 in the evening although I was diabetic.”

“They constantly urged me to confess and inform on others. They told me they would otherwise arrest me. The judge also threatened me with arrest if I do not inform on others.”

“When I was in custody, the lawyer shouted at me while I was giving my testimony. I was in confusion and fear. At least 5-6 male police officers were constantly saying, ‘You have a 2-year-old son, right? You won’t see him again.’ During my detention, I could neither see nor breastfeed my baby.”

“My father was imprisoned when I was 14. My mother continued to work as a teacher. When I was 15, they took my mother to prison, and I was left alone with my two younger siblings and my disabled grandmother. We lived for about 1.5 years in this way. I was at once the mother, the father, and the elder sister of the house.”

“After my wife was arrested, I heard the office of the district governor helps children of the prison inmates. I applied but was rejected. “We cannot help those who are arrested during the state of emergency,” they said. My child has a speech problem, but I can’t take him to the hospital where he can get treatment for it because university hospitals don’t serve us. My wife also has sleep apnea and Hashimoto thyroid diseases. But a forensic medicine report found that she can stay in prison.”

“Being jobless is already a trauma. During the first year [after the coup attempt], everyone reacted harshly. No one could find a job, nobody wanted to give us a job. We were hungry. For about one and half month we tried to make ends meet with whatever can be earned by each member of the family…Our neighbours were avoiding us. One of my neighbor shouted at me next to my child and among the crowd “Traitors, I will not let you live here.” My child went to school crying for two weeks. I didn’t want to go out. Even now, I feel as if someone will behave in this way when I go out. We could not give pocket money to our child going high school. He has to do with a packet of biscuits from morning to 5 pm. My spouse started saying, “I would have committed suicide had it not been for the children.”

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