What are the individual and societal costs of Turkey’s state of emergency law?


The results of the  “Individual and Societal Costs Imposed by the State of Emergency in its Second Year” report prepared by the Justice for Victims Society (What is this?) will soon be made available to the public. The report will be discussing the impacts of the country’s state of emergency rule implemented following the July 2016 coup attempt and lifted earlier this year.

The report set be announced by Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a member of Parliament from the Northwestern province of Kocaeli with the pro-Kurdish left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), along with 10 other members of parliament, at a press conference in Turkish Parliament, contains valuable information much like its precursor, “Social Burdens of the State of Emergency in Turkey.”

The previous report was published by the Platform for Rights and Justice, established in 2016 by a group of human rights defenders, at the end of last year.

The study unveils the results of an online survey conducted over a 1.5 month period and is still in the process of being written. With 3,766 participants, the target population voluntarily involved with the project of the “Individual and Societal Costs Imposed by the State of Emergency in its Second Year” study includes direct victims of the State of Emergency (SOE) and ensuing decrees imposed in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, those who are related to the victims, and tertiary victims. The attempted military coup is widely accepted in Turkey to have been organized by members of the Gülen movement, who are followers of Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen, in an attempt to depose Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Of the 3,766 participants of the study, 2,862 were direct victims of the SOE and related decrees, 591 are related to the victims, and the rest are tertiary victims who were not directly affected.

Men constitute 72.2 percent of the population of those surveyed while women accounting for 27.8 percent.

80.1 percent of those surveyed are married, and 74 percent have one or more children.

The education levels of those surveyed are as follows: 56 percent are university graduates; 15.7 percent are high school graduates; 5.7 percent are vocational school graduates and 5.4 percent have a doctorate degree.

The age groups of the SOE victims were found to be as follows:  22.1 percent of those affected were found to be between 31-35 years old; 22.6 percent between 36- 40, 20.1 percent between 41-45 and 10.2 percent between 46- 50.

Of those surveyed, 90 percent were civil servants, 4.8 percent worked in the private sector and 1.9 percent worked for municipal governments. Other participants were classified as employers, unemployed, retired or students.

The participants’ current employment status was classified as follows: 36.6 percent are unemployed; 10.4 percent are working temporary day-to-day jobs as they are able to find them; 4.8 percent are in the service industry; 3.9 percent work in the education sector; 1.5 percent work in agriculture/husbandry and 4.5 percent are self-employed.

A total of 1,046 participants answered the question, “Did you experience apprehension of arrest or detention under the SOE?” withs 81.8 percent answering with a ‘’yes.’’

Of these people, the percentage of people who were released on probation as their trial proceedings continued was 13.5 percent.

The percentage of people who remained under arrest during their trial proceedings was 21.8.

Those who were under arrest for a certain period and then released under probation represented 13.7 percent of those surveyed.

Participants whose trials were heard and concluded with a sentencing represented 18.9 percent.

Those who were arrested and released, but did not have any formal charges or lawsuits filed against them comprised 5.7 percent of those surveyed.

The study found that after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, a large proportion of SOE victims changed their political stance with 67.3 percent shifting their political views.

In the study, 2, 875 participants responded to the question of whether the victims wanted to leave Turkey; 63.9 percent answered ‘’yes.’’

Statements made by victims of the SOE decrees are also included in the report:

From bureaucrat to pastrycrat: “We are struggling to hold on. I went to school, got a government job, was fired, and now am trying to do whatever work I can. I was a bureaucrat, I got fired, so now I’m a pastrycrat. I go to cafes in the evenings with pastries that my wife makes, trying to make some money. Justice that arrives too late is not justice. And it is unclear when it will arrive. Despite the thousands of difficulties, I would consider my situation to be okay, and I will continue fighting.”

Even the local grocer cut ties with me: “Relatives, work friends, neighbors, and even my neighborhood grocer cut their ties with me. My relatives won’t even come to my house. They don’t ask how we are getting by. When we run into each other, they lament and act as if they are sympathizing with my situation, and then leave. They do not give us jobs. They insult us. Everyone says we are innocent but are too afraid to approach us. If I didn’t think that my family would die of sadness I would kill myself, I have run out of patience.”

No one would pray by me at the mosque: “People stopped calling me. They started avoiding me. The imam would not let me do prayers at the mosque. The congregation refused to pray by me, as if I had the plague. I was subject of slander. My life became paralyzed.”

People feared repaying money they borrowed from me: “I had lent money to two friends when I was still working, but after I was suspended, they were afraid to deposit money to my account for fear of suspension or expulsion. I was forced to travel 65 kilometers to get the money they had borrowed from me.”

The fine line between being a refugee and committing suicide: “I entered Europe through Greece with my two children. The Greek police treated us with dignity. I felt like I could finally breathe. The first four days were very difficult. We met many people. They each had a different story. Some had been tortured in prison, others had lost their spouses, and there were many more stories. Everyone had found some level of peace. They all say the same thing: ‘We can finally breath again.’ Then we joined my spouse. They treated us very well here too, they all say ‘hello,’ they smile. But the pain does not end; I was wounded here. I attempted suicide, but it didn’t work. I don’t even want to write down the things I experienced. Now I feel sorrow for my country and I cry.”

 A decade of neighborly relations came to an end: “Neighbors that I have shared an apartment building with for ten years, who know me very well, have distanced themselves from me. Many people I had worked with at the hospital turned away from me. Friends from the last unit I worked in are the only ones who care about my situation, but since the manager told them that they could get in trouble if they were to call me, they do not reach out either. I live very close to them, but they, too, are afraid to visit. They expect me to visit them instead.”

My daughter blamed me: “I am a widow with two children. My children constantly blamed me. Especially my daughter when she was denied a security clearance. This could not be the result of six years of medical education. She considered suicide. She turned her back on the world. My son got into university, and was planning on studying medicine as well. He was afraid of not getting a dormitory assignment. Fearing that he might not be able to finish school due to economic hardships, he blamed me, too.”

Being an SOE victim became fodder for children’s blackmail: “My family always supported me, because they knew I had done nothing wrong. It was my spouse’s arrest that shook me more so than losing my job. Many of my work friends neither called nor asked how I was doing. Everyone is afraid and intimidated. Although they know I am not guilty, they have not called. My neighbor was the person who made false accusations that led to my firing. My other neighbors did not cut their ties with me. But I had to move in with my family, so we have grown apart.

A local newspaper published full-page photographs of us under the heading “People expelled from the university through a decree.” That was when I most felt like people would attack me when I went outside. I felt both very vulnerable and lonely. I found out later that my child’s closest friend blackmailed him because he was aware of our situation. A fourth grader told my son that if he did not do what his friend demanded, he would tell everyone. My son lost control at school and at home, having fangry tantrums.”

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.