For Further Purges, Turkey Extends Emergency Rule

Police special forces patrol outisde the Reina nightclub which was attacked by a gunman, in Istanbul, Turkey, January 3, 2017. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

As Turkey grapples with a myriad of challenges in the wake of a deadly New Year’s Eve attack, the Turkish Parliament voted to extend the state of emergency for another three months to contain the ever-growing risk of radical terrorism and security problems.

But according to a senior government official, the government simply focused on another agenda — to pursue its longstanding purge campaign in public service and government departments.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the government has yet to complete purging suspected sympathizers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen from the state bureaucracy. The emergency measures grant government the necessary mandate to rule the country by bypassing Parliament, enacting motions, decisions that have the full force of law.

“The purge of FETO from the state has not been completed. We need the implementation of the emergency rule until FETO and all terror groups have been purged from the state,” Reuters quoted Kurtulmus as saying ahead of the vote. FETO is a term used by the government to describe the Gulen movement.

The ruling AKP holds Gulen and his sympathizers in bureaucracy as responsible for the abortive July 15 coup which killed more than 240 people. Gulen denies any link to the attempted coup.

Based on broad powers as part of the emergency measures, the government launched a sweeping purge campaign and dismissed more than 125,000 public servants, including generals, judges, prosecutors, police officers, diplomats, teachers and doctors. It detained more than 105,000 and arrested nearly 42,000 of them.

But critics and experts believe that the government’s obsession with the purge left Turkey vulnerable to the menace of terrorism and restrained capability of the Turkish police after purges of experienced counter-terrorism officials.

“It’s clear that the counter-terrorism ecosystem is not fulfilling its duties as desired in Turkey, which is facing grave terrorist threats at the moment,” Doruk Ergun, a security analyst at Istanbul-based think tank EDAM, told Wall Street Journal.

“The greater the purges, the greater the vulnerabilities as it becomes harder to replace officials removed from their posts,” he said.

The Turkish police launched a nationwide manhunt for the attacker who went on a rampage against New Year’s Eve revelers at famous Reina nightclub in Istanbul, killing 39 and wounding more than 40 people.

Though Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the government identified the attacker, it has yet to solve the onslaught that caught on video footage, rattling the entire country plagued by a series of deadly attacks last year.

In first wave of purges within the police in early 2014, the government replaced chief of the Istanbul counter-terrorism unit with another official previously responsible for social facilities that serve police corpses and their families in leisure activities.

Istanbul’s most recent police chief Selami Altinok, who is now leading the country’s entire police apparatus, has no previous law enforcement experience. A staunch Erdogan loyalist, he was appointed as Istanbul police chief two days after the corruption investigation was launched back in December 2013.

Istanbul pays the price dearly with every new attack that shattered the basic sense of security and safety, inflicting a debilitating damage on tourism and economy, lifelines of Istanbulites.

Normally, the state of emergency measures are expected to provide security, but in Turkey the opposite happened as the country suffered more and more attacks in the past six months since the failed coup. With Kurtulmus promising more purges, Turkey’s noticeable vulnerability is expected to go deeper.

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