Turkey’s dismissed public servants continue to face ‘civilian death’

It took only two days for Levent Mazılıgüney to comprehend that public servants, who were dismissed from their jobs during a two-year emergency rule in Turkey that followed a failed coup attempt in 2016, had to face financial consequences that went beyond losing a stable job.

“I was dismissed by a government decree on Saturday. In April 2017,” he says. “By Monday, all my credit cards were cancelled. My bank accounts were frozen.”

“This means paralysing a person,” according to Mazılıgüney, who maintains that many officials in Turkey have made further punishing sacked public servants in daily life a mission for themselves after the failed putsch, which the Turkish government says was orchestrated by a religious group called the Gülen movement.

More than 130,000 people lost their jobs via subsequent government decrees following the coup attempt, but the real number of people who were directly affected is as high as 250,000 according to Mazılıgüney, given the contract-based workers, who found themselves jobless after the government shut down some universities and private schools and closed military academies over Gülen links

Leven Mazılıgüney
Leven Mazılıgüney

“Civilian death” is the best term that can describe the life people have been forced to endure after they were banned from the public sector, Mazılıgüney says. “Many are prevented from a great deal, like buying a house, applying for insurance compensation in case of an accident or opening a bank account.”

News site T24 reported on Jan. 10 that the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency overturned the appeal of a doctor, who complained about a bank that refused to open an account on the grounds that the doctor was sacked from public service after the failed putsch. The agency said the banks had the freedom to choose the people they would accept as clients.

In late December, Independent Turkish reported that, after a car accident, an insurance company declined to pay compensation to a client, who was dismissed by a government decree under the emergency rule.

This week, another former public servant in the western province of Izmir could not sell his house as the local land registry office said that there was a risk decision that had been imposed by authorities on the registry documents of the flat, Duvar news site reported.

Mazılıgüney says arbitrary treatments of dismissed public servants is particularly widespread in the private sector. People who try to establish their own businesses are not granted licence or employers that consider employing such people are told by authorities that their businesses might face problems as a result.

“People cannot retire. Even if they do, their pensions are not paid,” Mazılıgüney explains. “We are seeing a group of people encircled from every angle.”

The banks and insurance companies have not been warned through official letters by the authorities, but through informal means, Mazılıgüney says. “The companies say they have received notifications, but nobody has seen up to now a written notification. They (companies) also do not tell who notified them.”

Mazılıgüney says it was likely that the public institutions had preferred oral warnings, as any written notifications could be used as evidence against them in the future when people in Turkey could seek justice for the practices that followed the July 15 coup attempt.

The former public servant said he had not worked with any bank after he had lost his job and had avoided any transactions through banks as much as possible.

“I should have a reason to trust them (banks) again. The rule of law should return to the country. They should operate under effective oversight,” he says.

Mazılıgüney, who had worked first in the Turkish Armed Forces as a commissioned officer and later in the Ministry of Defence, is not a person who is ready give up in a battle. The former engineer, who graduated from the Middle East Technical University in 2001, also received law and economics degrees during the period he worked in the public sector.

His life changed when his brother, who was also an army officer, was suspended by authorities for using ByLock, a mobile application the government says was used by Gülenists for communication.

Mazılıgüney wrote a 26-page report in November 2016 on ByLock to prove the innocence his brother. He was dismissed from public service after he submitted that report to relevant public institutions. His dismissal was justified on the grounds that he was a relative of a ByLock user.

After his dismissal, Mazlıgüney took part in an investigation that proved the innocence of 11,480 people, who were directed to the ByLock app without their knowledge via some trap programmes on their mobile phones. He also joined a nine-member team that investigated the accusations against people who allegedly used landlines to receive orders from Gülenists.

After he completed his internship as a lawyer in August 2018, Turkey’s Union of Bar Association overturned his request to obtain the licence required to practice law. Mazılıgüney brought the injustice to the media, and the union stepped back allowing people who are sacked from public service, but not subject to any investigation to receive their licences.

This time the Ministry of Justice rejected his application. Mazılıgüney received his licence in October of last year as the union declined to change its decision. 

“But the day after I received my licence, the Ministry of Justice filed a legal complaint, asking the courts the suspension of the execution,” he says. “It sued me saying that 'by serving as a lawyer he can endanger the struggle against terrorism and harm the credibility of the legal profession’ on the grounds that I was sacked by a government decree, although the fact that the authorities had taken a decision of non-prosecution in relation to my dismissal was mentioned in my case file.”

Mazılıgüney says the cruelty the dismissed public servants had been subject to should be seen as a problem of the whole of Turkish society.

“And people have slowly come to understand that. Maybe the country has been witnessing the biggest injustice in its history,” Mazlıgüney says.

© Ahval English