From soldiers to midwives, Turkey dismisses 15,000 more

From soldiers to midwives, Turkey dismisses 15,000 more
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses police officers in Ankara on Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 23 November 2016

From soldiers to midwives, Turkey dismisses 15,000 more

From soldiers to midwives, Turkey dismisses 15,000 more

ANKARA/ISTANBUL: Turkey dismissed 15,000 more state employees on Tuesday, from soldiers and police officers to tax inspectors and midwives, and shut 375 institutions and several news outlets, deepening purges carried out since a failed coup.
The dismissals, announced in two decrees, bring to more than 125,000 the number of people sacked or suspended in the military, civil service, judiciary and elsewhere since July’s coup attempt. About 36,000 have been jailed pending trial in the crackdown condemned by Western allies and rights groups.
President Tayyip Erdogan said the measures had significantly weakened the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers are blamed by Ankara for infiltrating state institutions over several decades and carrying out the attempted putsch.
But he made clear the purges were not yet over.
“We know they have not been completely cleansed. They are still present in our military, in our police force, in our judiciary,” he told a conference on policing in his palace.
“We will not leave our country to them, we will not let them consume this nation. We will do whatever is necessary,” he said.
The coup and its aftermath have shaken confidence in the stability of Turkey, a NATO member key to the fight against Islamic State and a bulwark for Europe against the conflicts raging in neighboring Syria and Iraq.
The crackdown has covered a vast range of professions — often where links to Gulen’s network are unclear — including doctors, nurses and midwives. Dismissals are announced in the Official Gazette with no reasons given beyond “membership of, or links to, terrorist organizations or groups deemed to be acting against national security interests.”
Some of the accused have been targeted for having accounts with a bank once controlled by Gulen’s followers, being members of an opposition union, or using a smartphone messaging app seen by the authorities as a Gulenist communications tool, according to Turkish media reports.
European allies have criticized the breadth of the purges, and EU parliament lawmakers called on Tuesday for a freezing of Turkey’s EU membership talks. A senior UN official has described the measures as “draconian” and “unjustified.”
Erdogan has rejected such criticism, saying Turkey is determined to root out its enemies at home and abroad, and could reintroduce the death penalty. He has accused Western nations of siding with coup plotters and of harboring terrorists.

‘Sold their souls’
Ankara blames Gulen and his network, which it refers to as the “Gulenist Terror Organization” (FETO), for the events of July 15, in which more than 240 people were killed as rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, fighter jets and helicopters, bombing parliament and other key buildings.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania in the United States since 1999, denies involvement.
“There is no place in this ... land drenched with the blood of martyrs for those who sold their souls to Pennsylvania, the separatist terrorist organization, or any other illegal organization,” Erdogan said.
He frequently uses “Pennsylvania” as shorthand for the cleric’s network. The “separatist organization” is a reference to the Kurdish PKK group, which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey’s southeast.
Nearly 2,000 members of the armed forces, 7,600 police officers, 400 members of the gendarmerie, and more than 5,000 public workers, including nurses, doctors and engineers, were dismissed in Tuesday’s decrees for suspected links to terrorist organizations.

Arrest warrant for Kurdish leader

Turkey on Tuesday issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the main Syrian Kurdish political party over a deadly bombing in Ankara in February blamed on Kurdish militants.
Arrest warrants were issued for the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) leader Salih Muslim as well as several fugitive leaders of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) over the Feb. 17 bombing against military vehicles, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Turkey had blamed the PYD and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), for the attack which left at least 28 people dead and was followed by another devastating bombing in the capital in March.
The Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) — a radical splinter group of the better-known PKK — claimed the suicide bombing, saying that it was in response to security operations in the southeast.
But Anadolu said that Ankara prosecutors believe that the order for the attack came from the PKK’s “highest leadership” and the TAK was merely a “front group” for the organization.
In his first reaction to the warrant, Muslim wrote on his official Twitter account that he did not take the order seriously.
“It’s known that Turkey is being ruled by decrees and a fabricated decree has been issued concerning me. I don’t think anyone will take it seriously,” he wrote in Turkish.
He later told AFP in Beirut: “I am not a Turkish citizen to be targeted by an arrest warrant.”
The warrant for Muslim came after Turkey earlier this month arrested 10 MPs from Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party on charges of links to the PKK, sparking international condemnation.
“The courts in Turkey take their orders from the authorities. Even members of parliament are being held,” Muslim said, referring to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers.
Reacting to the Turkish accusations, he said: “We condemned that attack when it took place and I consider this attempt to involve me in it as completely unacceptable.”