ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s security forces arrested approximately 150,000 people in operations targeting followers of the Turkish-Islamic Gulen movement in 2017, the country’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu revealed on Tuesday.
Of those, over 48,000 were put under pre-trial detention, he added.
“These numbers show us the severity of the situation. Our burden has multiplied by many folds in facilitating the security of the country and closing the vacancies in [the ranks] of state personnel,” Soylu said.
His words, carried by the government media, were reminding of massive purges in the police force, judiciary, bureaucracy, and the army since the July 2016 military coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule.
Erdogan holds his one-time ally, the US-based reclusive cleric Fethullah Gulen, and his followers within state institutions, of staging the failed coup.
Since then, some 150,000 officials accused of having ties with Gulenists have lost their jobs, among them high-ranking soldiers, teachers, academics, police officers, other civil servants, judges, and prosecutors.
Erdogan has vowed “to cleanse” the state from members of what his administration labels as “FETO,” a Turkish acronym standing for “Fethullahist Terror Organization,” over its alleged role in the putsch, a charge Gulen has denied.
Opposition parties and civil rights organizations argue the designation helps the government target many segments of society opposed to the government.
Speaking at a joint press conference with his Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, Erdogan told reporters that he hoped “the FETO terror organization” would be eradicated from the Balkans.
The group which calls itself “Hizmet” or Service for many decades acted as a de facto cultural and educational extension of Turkey in scores of countries across continents until its domestic power struggle with Erdogan’s government.
Ankara has pressured several Asian, African, and Balkan countries into shuttering down Gulen-affiliated schools and institutes and extraditing alleged members.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany