Victim of Turkey’s post-coup purge says she was insulted and subjected to physical violence by neighbors

A former public servant who was dismissed by a government decree after a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey has said she was subjected to insults and physical violence by her neighbors in Eskişehir province.

Speaking to the Duvar news website, Emine Özdemir Kara said as soon as she was fired, she was branded as a “terrorist” and “traitor” by her neighbors and was beaten on one occasion. Although Kara filed a complaint with the police, they failed to pursue the case.

“There was one incident where our neighbor forced herself into our home and pushed me onto the couch. She hit me and called me a dirty traitor,” said Kara.

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 29,934 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.

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.

Purge victims and their next of kin were branded as terrorists and discriminated against. Children of dismissed parents were bullied in school and called “children of terrorists.” Some parents said even teachers openly called their children terrorists, leading to psychological problems.

Kara said the most terrifying aspect of her ordeal was that the police did not care. “People said, How dare you call the police traitors,” she said. “They even threatened me with rape.”

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu submitted a parliamentary question addressing Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu regarding Kara’s claims.

“Have the police carried out an effective investigation into Emine Kara’s claims that she was beaten, insulted and threatened?” he asked. “If so, what was the outcome of the probe. If they haven’t looked into the claims, I demand an explanation as to why not.”

Gergerlioğlu also demanded to know whether other former public servants had filed similar complaints in the last five years.

The post-coup purge has wreaked havoc on the lives of former public servants. Children of purge victims have died by suicide due to social marginalization and discrimination. Bahadır Odabaşı, 16, killed himself due to depression caused by the imprisonment of his father after the coup attempt.

Suicide is becoming worryingly common also among purge victims. In early March a former sergeant, Ahmet Olgun, took his own life in Ankara. A week before Olgun, a former police officer died after setting himself on fire in Turkey’s northern province of Ordu. “I’m not a traitor,” he said in a suicide note.

Mesut Karaboyun, 32, a former noncommissioned officer in the gendarmerie, took his own life in Germany, where he had fled in June 2019 for a safer life.

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