Years after coup, purged civil servants feel trapped in Turkey

Leyla Simsek Rathke was acquitted of terror-related charges in September, but she continues to struggle to regain basic rights such as the freedom to travel, work and access social services.

Simsek Rathke, a former academic at Marmara University in Istanbul, was dismissed under a state of emergency in February 2017 in mass purges that saw more than 130,000 civil servants lose their positions following a 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

Frustrated by the inability to get her job back or obtain a valid passport, Simsek Rathke joined a group of purged civil servants in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul Sunday to protest the ongoing restrictions on dismissed workers. Though the post-coup state of emergency ended in 2018, many of those accused of collaborating with terror groups on dubious evidence continue to find justice evasive in appeals courts. Throughout the process, they have remained ostracized from broader Turkish society, which they feel has cast them as criminals.

In recent months, the dismissed civil servants have ramped up efforts to draw attention to their dire situation.

“For three years now, I have been jailed in this country,” Simsek Rathke told Al-Monitor, referring to her travel restriction. “I got a job offer to teach at the University of Kassel [in Germany] and I couldn’t leave. … I didn’t want to try the illegal way. Some of our friends did that, but I didn’t want to escape like that because I am not a criminal.”

Read the full story on Al Monitor.