Sunday 18 March 2018

Turkey extends coup purge to close schools and hospitals

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AP
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AP

Christopher Torchia

In a new tactic against suspected coup plotters, Turkey announced yesterday that it had seized more than 2,250 social, educational or healthcare institutions and facilities that, it claims, pose a threat to national security.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sharply criticised Western countries that expressed concern about possible human rights violations in the sweeping purges the government has carried out after the July 15 failed military coup that left at least 10,000 people in jail and another 60,000 tossed out of their jobs.

Erdogan said Turkey has no choice but to impose stringent security measures in the wake of the attempted coup that killed about 290 people and was put down by loyalist forces and protesters.

"We are duty-bound to take these measures," Erdogan said.

"I'm under the impression that they will only see that once all the political leaders of Turkey are killed, and then they'll start to dance for joy."

Turkey has imposed a three-month state of emergency and detained or dismissed tens of thousands of people in the military, judiciary and education systems, and other institutions.

Turkish leaders allege that supporters of a US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, infiltrated state agencies and groomed loyalists in a vast network of private schools as part of an elaborate, long-term plan to take over the country.

Gulen, a critic and former ally of Erdogan, has denied any knowledge of the coup.

EU governments expressed concern that Turkey's large-scale purges could jeopardise basic freedoms. Many wonder whether the purges are targeting opponents of Erdogan who had nothing to do with the coup, in order to strengthen his power.

The Turkish treasury and a state agency that regulates foundations have taken over more than 1,200 foundations and associations, about 1,000 private educational institutions and student dormitories, 35 healthcare institutions, 19 labour groups and 15 universities. Those institutions "belong to, have ties with or are in communication with" the Gulen movement, according a decree published yesterday in Turkey's official gazette.

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