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A Year After Coup Attempt, Turkish Opposition Accuses Erdogan of Exploiting Crisis

7,400 civil servants were fired Friday as government attempts to punish those linked to coup

Thousands attended unity marches in Istanbul and Ankara Saturday, as opposition leaders protested the latest wave of dismissals of civil servants. (Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty)

In Turkey, while thousands are expected to attend unity marches marking the one-year anniversary of the failed coup attempt in which a military faction attempted to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, opposition party leaders and Erdogan's critics are decrying the leader's authoritarian governing methods.

In addition to the anniversary, the weekend is also marked by the government's decision to fire nearly 7,400 teachers and other civil servants for alleged links to the coup. Erdogan declared a national state of emergency following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, and it has yet to be lifted. The latest round of dismissals brings the total number of fired civil servants, who also include journalists and minority party leaders, to more than 110,000. More than 50,000 people have also been arrested for supposed links.

Opposition party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu sharply criticized Erdogan's government for continuing the state of emergency, which he called a "second coup" which punished large sections of the Turkish population. Last week, Kilicdaroglu led a March for Justice attended by tens of thousands demanding the release of those who have been detained and an end to the firings.

The government has said the dismissals have targeted people who are linked to Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric who Erdogan accuses of masterminding the coup. Gulen has denied the allegations and critics have called the firings arbitrary.


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In a special parliamentary session, the deputy chairman of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party said the government crackdown punished "people and institutions who were against the coup and who did not belong to the ruling party."

Writing in The Guardian Saturday, Kilicdaroglu denounced the referendum which narrowly passed in April giving Erdogan broad new powers, and demanded a full investigation into the coup, which he says has been blocked by the government.

"In the year since [the coup], Turkish democracy has given way to a near-dictatorial regime," Kiligdaroglu wrote. "The president exploited the crisis...led a purge against all oppositional voices and started ruling by decree. If we want to eradicate the coups d’etat from Turkey’s future what needs to be done is the very opposite."

"Imprisoning MPs, journalists, academics, judges or employing widespread torture is not a defense of democracy," he added. "Labeling at least half of your population as 'terrorist' is not a defense of democracy. And concentrating power in the hands of one person without any checks or balances is an assault on the very notion of democracy."

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