Turkish gov’t issues detention warrants for 68 labour union leaders over alleged links to Gülen movement

Turkish government has issued detention warrants on Friday for 68 former labour union leaders as part of its massive post-coup witch campaign targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement.

Police have launched operations in 11 provinces across Turkey to nab 68 former labour union leaders as part of Ankara-based probe targeting the Gülen movement. It was reported that the 68 figures served in six different unions, part of the Aksiyon Labor Confederation, which was shut down by a government decree in 2016 under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to a report released by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) on September 10, 2017, unions are among those civil society organisations that people close to the Gülen movement had founded according to the rules and regulations in effect in Turkey at that time.

The Aksiyon-İş Union was established in education sector but soon expanded to include other industries and became a confederation of unions representing labor in various sectors. Facing new competition that became popular in a very short period of time, Memur-Sen, a pro-government union, was furious to see a new player in the union eld. This issue has become one of the major areas of conflict between the Gülen movement and Erdoğan regime.

Various articles have also appeared in the media in this respect. For instance, Koray Çalışkan, a journalist with the now-closed Radikal newspaper, wrote that “the Gülen movement has taken the first step against the closure of private teaching institutions by leaving the Eğitim-Bir Sen union, which has close relations with the AKP. The Aktif Eğitim-Sen union, established last year, has attracted 35,000 members in only nine months, from unions that are close to the AKP.”

After the corruption and bribery investigations of December 17/25, 2013, unions close to the movement came under increased pressure from the government. Using the controversial coup bid in 2016 as a pretext, the Erdoğan government shut down all 19 unions, federations and confederations along with 35 health institutions, 1,043 private education institutions, 1,229 foundations and associations, and 15 universities with decree-law no. 667. Their assets were confiscated as well. Administrators and members of the unions also faced detention and arrest in large numbers.

According to the report, overnight, the Turkish government declared legally operating unions that it had allowed to be established and for whose members it had paid union membership fees to be criminal organizations and their members terrorists. Being a member of one of the unions has become grounds for conviction.

Gülen movement affiliated Cihan-Sen confederation, consisting of unions that were established by public employees, had also 22,104 members in July 2016 according to government data. A total of 18,015 of these members were under the roof of Aktif-Sen, which was established in the education sector. Today, all of these members are at risk of being charged with membership in a terrorist organization. Thousands of teachers have already been arrested and face prosecution just because they were members of these unions.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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