Jan 29 2018

Turkey's purge goes global

Turkey has used its international clout to pursue exiles, dissidents, and regular citizens abroad and have Turkish citizens arrested in or deported from 15 different countries, wrote the Freedom House scholar Nate Schenkkan in an article published on Monday by Foreign Affairs journal.

The “transnational repression” exerted by Turkey as it goes after Turks outside Turkey is a “threat to the rule of law everywhere”, as the article’s subtitle says.

Moreover, the degree to which the Turkish government can silence dissent among the Turkish diaspora will also have a great bearing on “whether viable democratic alternatives to authoritarian rule emerge”.

Much of Turkey’s focus abroad is on followers of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish preacher and the alleged leader of the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation” that Turkey blames for attempting to overthrow its government.

Fifteen countries have arrested or deported followers of Gülen, “ranging from supposed financiers to schoolteachers”, according to Schenkkan. The countries spread across a vast, diverse geographical area, from Angola to Indonesia, indicating “how dispersed the Gülen movement is and how aggressively the Turkish government has behaved”.

A number of those deported were at the time seeking asylum, and therefore due protected status, but were sent to Turkey anyway.

Many of the Gülen organisation’s schools have also been shut down abroad, further demonstrating Turkey’s influence.

Turkey has also brought Interpol to bear on its dissidents, and some of the 40,000 extradition requests the international policing organisation reported they were examining may have been from Turkey, according to Schenkkan.

One left-wing writer, Doğan Akhanlı, was arrested and kept in Spain for two months while the Spanish police investigated an extradition request submitted by Turkey.

Meanwhile, the Turkish rhetoric around the transnational hunt for Turkey’s enemies has taken on a bloodthirsty tone among pro-government circles. One pro-government commentator, Cem Küçük, spoke casually about how Turkish intelligence units should assassinate followers of Gülen in foreign countries.