Three years on, coup attempt continues to reshape Turkey

For decades, Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu was both a doctor and a human rights advocate. By day, he saw patients at the Izmit Seka State Hospital. By night, he was a member of human rights organizations and shared posts on social media supporting a peace process to end nearly 40 years of warfare between Kurdish militants and the Turkish state.

On Oct. 13, 2016, one of his social media posts got him suspended and eventually dismissed from his position by decree law over alleged links with terrorist groups. He became one of 150,000 civil servants laid off in a wave of ongoing purges that began after the July 15, 2016, coup attempt in Turkey. Like the many dismissed academics, police officers and state employees, his passport was confiscated, he struggled to find employment and he became socially isolated in a period he describes as his “civil death.”

“People were treating me as if I had the plague,” Gergerlioglu told Al-Monitor. “They wouldn’t talk to me. My friends, neighbors, relatives, they all cut their links. It was a complete social exclusion.”

The purges began as a sweeping effort to rout out supporters of the US-based Islamist Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkish officials accuse of orchestrating the coup. But the purges quickly spread, targeting opposition leaders, lawyers, journalists and human rights advocates, stifling free speech over the last three years, in which 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial.

Unlike many of those caught in the post-coup fallout, Gergerlioglu ran for parliament and won a seat with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the province of Kocaeli. Since then, he has been working on cases stemming from the state of emergency, which was imposed from July 2016 to July 2018.

“I cry almost every day because it’s heartbreaking — it’s very heavy,” Gergerlioglu said. “The state breaks everyone’s back. It doesn’t matter if you are a Turk or Kurd, an Alevi or a Sunni, or an atheist, the state goes after everyone.”

Today, on the third anniversary of the failed coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is commemorating the sacrifices of the more than 250 people who died trying to stop rogue military units from overthrowing the government. Seen as a triumph of democracy by some and the beginning of Turkey’s authoritarian slide by others, few nights have redefined daily life and politics in the nation like the July 15 coup attempt.

From the continued repression of street rallies to Turkey’s recent acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, the failed coup bares marks on nearly every domestic and foreign policy decision. Taken together, the arc of developments in post-coup Turkey has created distance between the nation and its long-time Western allies that may prove difficult to bridge in the coming years.

Read the full story on Al Monitor: