US Human Rights Report: Turkish gov’t restricts int’l travel for tens of thousands of citizens over links to Gülen movement

The Turkish government has restricted foreign travel for tens of thousands of citizens accused of links to the Gülen movement or involvement in a failed 2016 coup attempt, the US State Department has stated.

The State Department released its 64-page Turkey 2017 Human Rights Report on Friday. According to the report, the constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration and repatriation, but the government has limited these rights.

The report said travel restrictions were applied both to those accused directly of affiliation with the Gülen movement or terrorist groups as well as to their extended family members. “Authorities also restricted several foreign citizens with dual Turkish citizenship from leaving the country. The government maintained that these travel restrictions were necessary and justified under the state of emergency,” the report said.

The report also said that freedom of movement was restricted in southeastern Anatolia as a result of counter-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) operations and, in certain cases, curfews imposed by local authorities. The government also limited freedom of movement for 3.3 million refugees from Syria as well as for the approximately 300,000 refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries who were present in the country.

Reminding that the constitution stipulates that only a judge can limit citizens’ freedom to travel and only in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution, the report stated that “The state of emergency allowed the government to limit citizens’ internal movement without a court order. Freedom of movement remained a problem in parts of the east and southeast, where continuing PKK activity led authorities to block roads and set up checkpoints, temporarily restricting movement at times. The government instituted special security zones, restricting the access of civilians, and established curfews in parts of several provinces in response to PKK terrorist attacks or activity.”

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 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah 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. 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.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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