In the aftermath of the attempted coup in Turkey Friday night, thousands of teachers as well as police, military personnel, judges, governors and more have been dismissed. The list includes:
- 21,000 private teachers have licenses removed
- 15,000 suspended from education ministry
- 8,000 police officers detained or suspended
- 6,000 soldiers detained
- 1,500 staff at Ministry of Finance dismissed
- 2,745 judges dismissed
- 1,577 deans – Education board demands resignation
- 492 sacked from Religious Affairs Directorate
- 399 from Ministry of Family and Social Policies stripped of responsibilities
- 257 fired from the prime minister’s office
- 100 intelligence officials sacked
- 47 district governors dismissed
- 30 provincial governors dismissed
- 20 news websites blocked
In addition, public sector employees have reportedly been forbidden from leaving the country.
The alacrity with which the above thousands were either arrested or purged from their position, has led many to assume that Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan had prepared the lists before the coup.
The European Union commissioner in charge of Turkey’s bid, Johannes Hahn, to join the EU echoed these sentiments, saying, "It looks at least as if something has been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage," Hahn said. "I'm very concerned. It is exactly what we feared."
Moreover, many dubious circumstances surrounding the coup have led others to question whether the coup was, in fact staged, to allow Erdogan to execute these purges and declare a state of emergency where authoritarian rule will be imposed on the country.
These circumstances include the fact that the coup’s plotters:
Failed to seize power
- Neither Erdogan nor any members of the cabinet or high-ranking officials of Erdogan’s Islamist AK party were detained or killed.
- Sent commandos to the hotel where Erdogan was staying after he had already left.
- Erdogan’s $600 million presidential palace was not attacked or occupied.
- Erdogan’s plane was not intercepted or shot down as he flew back to Istanbul, despite the fact that top generals in the Air Force were involved in the plot.
- Coup plotters occupied Ataturk International Airport but left before Erdogan’s plane landed.
- Attacked the parliament building, which was all but empty at the time.
Failed to seize control of media
- After initially taking control of the state’s TRT station and CNN Turk, the plotters immediately relinquished control of these news outlets back to the government, which allowed Erdogan to leverage appeal to his followers to take to the streets in support of the government.
Whether the coup was staged or Erdogan received a tip-off about it, as other have suggested, he was able to bring the Islamist “street” out in force to support him. The fact that the Turkish public seems to be becoming increasingly radicalized is borne out by a recent poll taken in Turkey in May of this year.
According to a May poll of the Gezici Research Company, close to 1 in 5 people in Turkey (19.7 percent) support the Islamic State and over 23 percent have sympathy for it.
The poll, which was conducted face-to-face with 2,455 Turkish citizens in 24 cities, also indicates that Turkish support for ISIS has increased 100 % in the last 2 years.
The owner of the research company that conducted the poll, Murat Gezici, explained the surprising results. “95 percent of Turkey’s population is Muslim. And a large majority of them are pious and conservative,” Gezici said.
“At the Sultanahmet Square in Istanbul, a German tourist group was targeted. In Suruc, leftists were targeted. The attack at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport took place at its international terminal,” he added. “The conservatives in Turkey see that Muslims are not targeted in the attacks that are told by official sources to have been carried out by ISIS.”
Gezici also said that most Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey of which there are 2.7 million, are sympathizers of ISIS. “As opposed to what is thought,” Gezici said, “60 percent of the Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey have come to Turkey fleeing Syrian head of state Bashar al-Assad. And a large majority of this group sees ISIS as a savior; they have sympathy for it.”
In 2015, the Gezici Research Company was raided by government inspectors after releasing an opinion poll and its pollsters were detained after releasing results of an opinion poll showing that Turkey's ruling party would losing votes in an upcoming election.
"Police told our surveyors that they were not authorized for the field study. In reality, we have had all licenses for political, economic and market studies since 2011," said Gezici at the time.
Meanwhile, jihadi propaganda is becoming more and more common in the Turkish Islamist media. In just one example, Misvak, an Islamist “humor” magazine known to be close to the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party), recently published a cartoon praising the Islamic State.
These current statistics as well as recent events challenge the myth that Turkey is a secular, democratic state worthy of Western support, NATO membership and an appropriate candidate for EU membership.
In truth, the history of Turkey is not foreign to Islamic State-like atrocities and has witnessed tremendous persecution of religious minorities – including the Yazidis, Christians, Alevis, Jews and others.
From the 1915 Armenian genocide, to the 1937 Dersim Alevi massacres, the 1955 anti-Greek pogroms in Istanbul, the 1978 massacre of Alevis in Maras and the 1980 massacre of Alevis in Corum, among others, many Turkish governments and a considerable part of the Turkish society have carried out brutal crimes against their minority citizens.
Religious violence is largely endemic to political Islam. Doubtlessly, the Islamic State is a huge threat to human rights and liberties worldwide, but Islamist crimes should not be restricted to this terror group only.
Analyzing the history of Islamist crimes against non-Muslims – both in Turkey and the rest of the Muslim world – as well as the Islamic doctrine of jihad would give us a better insight into why many Muslims can so easily feel sympathy for a horrific group like ISIS and why many pious Muslims can even see ISIS as a source of humor.
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org
William Reed is a human rights activist and a student of Turkish language and history.