Turkey's Erdogan, using emergency decree, shuts schools, charities, unions

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightens his grip on Turkey, ordering the closure of thousands of private schools, charities and other institutions in his first decree since imposing a state of emergency after the failed military coup.

President extends period in which some suspects can be detained without charge

Turkey's state of emergency allows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and government to pass laws without first having to win parliamentary support and also allows them to curb or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary. (Umit Bektas/Reuters)

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tightened his grip on Turkey on Saturday, ordering the closure of thousands of private schools, charities and other institutions in his first decree since imposing a state of emergency after the failed military coup.

A restructuring of Turkey's once untouchable military also drew closer, with a planned meeting between Erdogan and the already purged top brass brought forward by several days.

The schools and other institutions are suspected by Turkish authorities of having links to U.S.-based Muslim preacher 
Fethullah Gulen, who has many followers in Turkey. Erdogan has accused Gulen of orchestrating the July 15 coup attempt in which at least 246 people were killed. Gulen denies the accusation.

His nephew, Muhammed Sait Gulen, was detained in the northeastern Turkish city of Erzurum and will be brought to the capital Ankara for questioning, the Anadolu state news agency reported. Among possible charges that could be brought against him is membership of a terrorist organization, the agency said. 

It is the first time a relative of Gulen has been reported detained since the failed coup.

"We in Turkey are passing through [an] extraordinary time," Turkey's ambassador to Canada, Selcuk Unal, told CBC's Carole MacNeil.

"This terrorist gang that was in the army ... tried to arrange a coup, which failed, and during this coup attempt, so many people died," he said.

"It's still a serious situation," he added. "The government is trying to contain the threat this terrorist gang is posing to Turkey."

Supporters of the Turkish government sit on a statue of the founder of modern Turkey during a Wednesday demonstration in Istanbul against the July 15 failed coup attempt. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has overseen the arrest of thousands and dismissal of tens of thousands since the coup attempt. (Tolga Bozoglu/EPA)

Critics of Erdogan fear he is using the attempted coup to wage an indiscriminate crackdown on dissent. The foundations targeted include, for example, the Association of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), a secular group that criticized a recent judicial law drafted by Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party.

In his decree, published by Anadolu, Erdogan also extended to a maximum of 30 days, from four days, the period in which some suspects can be detained. It said this would facilitate a full investigation into the coup attempt.

Erdogan, who narrowly escaped capture and possible death during the July 15 coup attempt, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday he would restructure the armed forces and bring in "fresh blood."

Military meeting moved to palace

Turkey's Supreme Military Council (YAS) will meet under Erdogan's supervision on July 28, a few days earlier than originally planned, private broadcaster NTV reported, a sign that the president wants to act fast to ensure the armed forces are fully under the government's control.

Reinforcing that message, the YAS meeting — which usually takes place every August — will be held this time in the presidential palace, not, as is customary, at the headquarters of the military General Staff. 

Erdogan, a popular but polarizing figure who has dominated Turkish politics since 2003, declared the state of emergency late on Wednesday, saying it would enable authorities to swiftly and effectively root out supporters of the coup.

The emergency allows Erdogan and the AK Party government, who are mildly Islamist, to pass laws without first having to win parliamentary support and also to curb or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

Turkish authorities have already launched a series of mass purges of the armed forces, police, judiciary and education system, targeting followers of Gulen, who operates an extensive network of schools and charitable foundations.

The first decree signed by Erdogan authorized the closure of 1,043 private schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 19 trade unions, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions over suspected links to the Gulen movement, the Anadolu agency said.

Erdogan urges more rallies

Parliament must still approve the decree but requires only a simple majority, which the ruling AK Party — founded by Erdogan and in power in Turkey since 2002 — commands.

In an address to lawmakers late on Friday Erdogan vowed to bring to justice supporters of the Gulenist "terrorist" movement and he urged Turks to continue attending rallies in major cities in support of democracy and against the coup plotters.

More rallies were planned over the weekend in many towns and cities. In Istanbul, Turkey's commercial capital, authorities have allowed people to travel for free on the metro system so they can more easily attend the rallies. Video screens on trains show pictures of citizens, or "martyrs," killed in the violence.

Global implications of attempted coup in Turkey

The National

5 years ago
Ryerson University professor Mustafa Koc discusses the impacts of the failed coup beyond Turkey's borders 2:18

'No need' for evidence for extradition of cleric

On Friday evening Erdogan held his first meeting since the coup with the head of the national intelligence agency, Hakan Fidan, after complaining of significant intelligence shortcomings ahead of the coup attempt. Despite media 
speculation, however, he did not sack Fidan.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told private broadcaster NTV that Turkey expected to complete within 10 days a dossier requesting Gulen's extradition from the United States.

Cavusoglu said the link between soldiers involved in the coup and Gulen's extensive network of followers was "very clear," adding that Turkey would do all it could "politically and legally" to secure his extradition.

The U.S. has said Ankara needs to provide clear evidence of Gulen's involvement before it can agree to extradite him. Lawyers say the process could take many years.

Unal, the Turkish ambassador, disagreed.

"After such a bloody coup, there's no need for any kind of evidence," Unal told CBC.

When pressed to clarify, he said many of those behind the coup "have announced that they were working for this movement," referring to Gulen's organization.

After the coup, Western countries pledged support for democracy in Turkey, a NATO ally and an important partner in the fight against ISIS, but they have also expressed concern over the scale of the subsequent purges of state institutions.

Turkish authorities have suspended, detained or placed under investigation more than 60,000 soldiers, police officers, judges, teachers, civil servants and others in the past week.

Turkey's ambassador to Canada reacts to coup attempt


5 years ago
'We in Turkey are passing through an extraordinary time,' says Selcuk Unal 10:33

With files from CBC News