July 18, 2016 | Policy Brief

Turkey’s Post-Coup Purges by the Numbers

July 18, 2016 | Policy Brief

Turkey’s Post-Coup Purges by the Numbers

Co-written by Yagmur Menzilcioglu

A faction of the Turkish military attempted a coup d’état on Friday. Lacking support of the bulk of the armed forces, police, and intelligence community, it was quashed within hours. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promptly blamed the plot on his archrival Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. In the days since, Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has unleashed a purge against members of the state bureaucracy suspected of membership in Gulen’s movement.

Authorities detained or suspended nearly 20,000 officials from the police, civil service, judiciary, and military over the weekend. Over 7,500 of those detained were from the military and judiciary, along with 2,745 judges and prosecutors – including nearly 200 higher-court judges and two on the Constitutional Court. Images of detained suspected coup-plotters circulated on the internet showing them held in horse stables, forced on their knees, and stripped to the waist. On Monday, the 27 suspected masterminds behind the plot appeared before judges in Ankara, reportedly without any access to lawyers.

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry announced on Monday that 8,777 officials had been suspended, including nearly 8,000 police officers, more than 600 gendarmerie officers, some 100 generals and admirals, 30 provincial governors, and around 50 district governors. Hours later, the Finance Ministry said it had fired 1,500 employees suspected of ties to the Gulen movement, too.

The AKP and Gulen movement have been in a state of war since 2013. After Gulen supporters leaked embarrassing and incriminating details about AKP corruption on a massive scale, then-Prime Minister Erdogan accused the Gulenists of orchestrating a coup, and thousands of Gulen-affiliated prosecutors and police officers were detained, reassigned, or fired.

Gulen personally denied any involvement in Friday’s plot, suggesting that Erdogan could have staged it to justify this new round of purges. But the AKP insists he was responsible, demanding his extradition from the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Turkish authorities to offer proof of their accusations against the cleric, and suggested that his department would then evaluate the extradition request. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim responded with a threat, warning that should the U.S. fail to hand over the wanted man, Ankara may start “questioning” its friendship with Washington.

Gulen’s fate remains to be determined, but the mass arrests in Turkey are sure to continue, with Erdogan exploiting the crisis to consolidate his presidential powers in the process.

Merve Tahiroglu is a research associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Yagmur Menzilcioglu is a research intern. Follow Merve on Twitter: @MerveTahiroglu