Turkey’s great purge

Mustafa Akyol writes: More than a month has passed since the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. Most people here are glad we averted a major attack on our democracy, which could have initiated not only a brutal military regime but maybe even a civil war. Many people outside Turkey, on the other hand, seem more worried about the failed coup’s aftermath than the bloody putsch itself, which left more than 250 people dead.

What really seems to worry people, especially in the West, is the purge that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government began after the mutiny. The numbers are staggering: 80,000 civil servants have been suspended from their jobs, more than 2,000 of them judges or prosecutors. Meanwhile, more than 20,000 people have been arrested. The justice minister announced earlier this month that some 38,000 inmates would be released to free up space in Turkey’s prisons.

To some, these numbers conjure memories of dark episodes of the past century: Stalin’s infamous Great Purge of dissidents in the 1930s or Hitler’s use of the Reichstag Fire to crack down on Communists.

But Turkey’s situation is too complicated for such historical comparisons. For example, Mr. Erdogan’s main political rival, the secularist Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P., agrees with the president that the state should be cleansed of people who backed the coup attempt. In the days after July 15, the C.H.P. leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, visited Mr. Erdogan at his presidential place for the first time. The two rivals even spoke together at an anti-coup rally attended by millions.

In other words, the coup plot that tried to rip our democracy apart has strengthened our resolve. Turkey’s main political groups — Islamists, secularists, nationalists and Kurds — are now largely united for the first time in decades, albeit around just one issue. They agree that the plot was not the work of individual officers, but rather an Islamic cult that had infiltrated key state institutions: the movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish imam who has been living in Pennsylvania since 1999. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email