The New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) on Tuesday strongly condemned the shutting down of 370 civil society organizations as part of new state of emergency decrees issued by the Turkish government.
HRF said in a statement released on Tuesday that the Turkish authorities, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ordered the temporary shutdown of hundreds of civil society groups, including bar associations and children’s rights organizations, based on allegations that the groups have “ties to terrorist organizations.”
“Recep Erdoğan’s government has gone far beyond persecuting members of the Gülen movement. It has brutally crushed all dissenting voices in a nation that, until recently, was a beacon of hope for moderates and liberals in the Middle East,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF.
Inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, the Gülen movement is a worldwide civil society movement focusing on world peace through education and dialogue.
The Turkish government and Erdoğan put the blame on Gülen for a July 15 coup attempt, a claim strongly denied by the scholar. Since then, Turkish authorities have launched a massive crackdown on the movement, arresting tens of thousands of public servants and dismissing nearly 115,000 civil servants over alleged ties to the movement. The government has also confiscated the properties of hundreds of companies and arrested leading businessmen over suspected links to the movement.
As part of Tuesday’s decree, the Turkish government dismissed more than 15,000 public servants, including 1,988 from the military, 7,586 from the police force and 5,749 from other state institutions, over links to a failed military coup on July 15.
“Erdoğan has transformed Turkey from a democratic country to an authoritarian regime and he has done this by abusing the state of emergency powers he claimed after an attempted coup that, by the hour, looks more like a very convenient justification for the total dictatorial takeover of Turkey by his nationalist political party,” said Halvorssen.
Among the civil society organizations closed down are the Progressive Lawyers Association (CHD), and the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (OHD).
Halvorssen also underlined that Erdoğan is now persecuting the associations devoted to defending people he perceives as political adversaries.
“If this trend continues, the government will next seek to persecute the attorneys representing the associations who represent the persecuted individuals, and then it will persecute the attorneys of those attorneys. When does it end?” he added.
Javier El-Hage, chief legal officer of HRF, also reacted against the latest decree, saying, “Turkey’s authoritarian regime must acknowledge that, under international law, a state of emergency declaration does not entitle a government to behave lawlessly and to engage in gross human rights violations.”
“Judges and parliament members have been purged due to their refusal to follow the government’s abusive agenda, while Erdoğan’s regime continues to bulldoze any vestiges of dissent in Turkey,” El-Hage said.