Turkish President Erdogan has announced plans to rid potentially hundreds of thousands of “undesirable citizens” from Turkey, amid a huge crackdown on dissidents in the country.
Whilst Turkey remains in an official state of emergency, Erdogan has purged 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers following last week’s failed coup attempt.
The ongoing cleansing has also spooked Turkish investors sending local markets and the currency sliding on concerns Erdogan is going to far with his retribution.
In response, Turkey said it would announce emergency measures on Wednesday to try “to shore up stability and prevent damage to the economy” which is paradoxically reeling as a result not so much of the coup as Turkey’s reaction to it. According to Reuters, Erdogan has vowed to clean the “virus” responsible for the plot from all state institutions. The depth and scale of the purges have raised concern among Western allies that Erdogan is trying to suppress all dissent, and that opponents unconnected with the plot will be caught in the net.
He will chair meetings in his palace on Wednesday of the cabinet and the National Security Council, after which a series of emergency measures are expected to be announced.
Not surprisingly, government ministers and top officials have not been briefed in advance of the meetings. “The cabinet meeting is classified at the highest level for national security reasons. The palace will give ministers a dossier just beforehand,” one senior official told Reuters.
“Ministers do not yet know what is going to be discussed.” Perhaps because as Turkey regresses back to a sultanate, ministers become redundant.
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek told Reuters a priority in the measures to be discussed on Wednesday would be preventing damage to the economy. He also said on Twitter they would be “market-friendly” and would prioritize structural reform. We are confident some measure against “market speculators” will be implemented shortly.
Among the latest announcements, around a third of Turkey’s roughly 360 serving generals have been detained since the coup bid, a second senior official said, with 99 charged pending trial and 14 more being held. Additionally, academics were banned from traveling abroad on Wednesday in what a Turkish official said was a temporary measure to prevent the risk of alleged coup plotters in universities from fleeing. State TRT television said 95 academics had been removed from their posts at Istanbul University alone. “Universities have always been crucial for military juntas in Turkey and certain individuals are believed to be in contact with cells within the military,” the official said.
Meanwhile, Erdogan continues to focus the public’s attention on his hand-picked scapegoat for the attempted, if perhaps staged, coup. “This parallel terrorist organization will no longer be an effective pawn for any country,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, referring to what the government has long alleged is a state within a state controlled by followers of Fethullah Gulen. “We will dig them up by their roots,” he told parliament.
Erdogan blames the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for Friday night’s attempted coup, in which more than 230 people were killed as soldiers commandeered fighters jets, military helicopters and tanks to try to overthrow the government. On Tuesday, authorities shut down media outlets deemed to be supportive of the cleric.
Seventy-five-year-old Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania but has a network of supporters within Turkey, has condemned the abortive coup and denied any role in it. A former ally-turned critic of Erdogan, he suggested the president staged it as an excuse for a crackdown after a steady accumulation of control during 14 years in power.
Obama discussed the status of Gulen in a telephone call with Erdogan on Tuesday, the White House said, urging Ankara to show restraint as it pursues those responsible for the coup attempt. In parallel talks, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and his Turkish counterpart discussed the importance of Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base in the campaign against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon said. The base, which is used by Turkish and U.S. forces in the air campaign against Islamic State, has been without power in the days since the failed coup.
In an amusing twist, Prime Minister Yildirim accused Washington, which has said it will consider Gulen’s extradition only if clear evidence is provided, of double standards in its fight against terrorism.
Yildirim said the justice ministry had sent a dossier to U.S. authorities on Gulen, whose religious movement blends conservative Islamic values with a pro-Western outlook and who has a network of supporters within Turkey. “We have more than enough evidence, more than you could ask for, on Gulen,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters outside parliament. “There is no need to prove the coup attempt, all evidence shows that the coup attempt was organized on his will and orders.”
White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed Ankara had filed materials in electronic form with the U.S. government, which officials were reviewing. Any extradition request from Turkey, once submitted, would be evaluated under the terms of a treaty between the two countries, he added.
This treaty excludes offences “of a political character” although it does cover those “committed or attempted against a head of state or a head of government”.
Any extradition request would face legal and political hurdles in the United States. Even if approved by a judge, it would still have to go to Secretary of State John Kerry, who can consider non-legal factors, such as humanitarian arguments.
“I urge the U.S. government to reject any effort to abuse the extradition process to carry out political vendettas,” Gulen said on Tuesday in a statement issued by the Alliance for Shared Values, a group associated with the cleric.
Amusingly the real “double standard” has nothing to do with the US (un)willingness to extradite an old man who certainly had nothing to do with the staged coup, and everything to do with the western treatment of what is now a historic putsch for a “democratic” country.
As Reuters concludes, “Turkey’s Western allies have expressed solidarity with the government over the coup attemptbut have also voiced increasing alarm at the scale and swiftness of the response, urging it to adhere to democratic values.”
Since 50,000 purged is clearly not enough for Western allies to do anything more than “voice increasing alarm”, we wonder what number will trigger actual action: 100,000? 1 Million? More?
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