On 20th anniversary, Feb. 28 victims say there is more oppression in Turkey today

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Renowned figures who were all victimized by a military intervention known as the Feb. 28 postmodern coup of 1997 have said on the 20th anniversary of the coup that there is more oppression in Turkey under emergency rule declared following a failed coup attempt on July 15.

A coalition government led by a now-defunct conservative party, the Welfare Party (RP), was forced to resign by the Turkish military on Feb.28, 1997 on the grounds that there was rising religious fundamentalism in the country.

The ban introduced a series of restrictions on the lives of pious Muslims with the most notorious of them being a headscarf ban.

Thousands of people were purged from state jobs simply because they were observant Muslims.

Fourteen Feb. 28 victims including pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Hüda Kaya, one of the founders of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Fatma Bostan Ünsal, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mehmet Bekaroğlu, academic Cihangir İslam, writer İhsan Eliaçık andhuman rights activists Ahmet Faruk Ünsal and Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu signed a declaration on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Feb.28 coup in which they compared the days of Feb.28 to today.

The Feb. 28 victims also held a news conference on Tuesday titled “From Where to Where on the 20th Anniversary of Feb.28?” during which victims said the emergency rule declared in Turkey in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt is a blow to democracy just like the Feb.28 coup was.

During the news conference, Eliaçık made a comparison between the sufferings of people during the days of the Sept.12, 1980 and Feb. 28 coups and today and said: “This era is worse than that of Feb.28. At least there were judges and prosecutors at that time, and they instilled confidence in [the independence of] the judiciary. Now, when you get caught, you cannot get out of prison for at least six months. They keep people in jail with nonsense accusations. Today, they have jailed 40,000 people. This did not happen during Feb.28. I was jailed in Mamak Prison for one year during the time of the Sept.12 coup. The tyranny of today has left that of Sept.12 behind.”

For his part, Gergerlioğlu said Turkey is undergoing another era of pressure today. “The media have been completely silenced. The [independence] of the judiciary has been completely destroyed. Tens of thousands of people have been fired from their jobs. Hundreds of journalists, intellectuals and writers have been jailed.”

Immediately after the failed putsch on July 15, the AKP government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Over 135,000 people, including thousands within the military, have been purged due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, according to a statement by the labor minister on Jan. 10. As of Feb. 1, 89,775 people were being held without charge, with an additional 43,885 in pre-trial detention due to their alleged links to the movement.

Hundreds of media organizations have also been closed down due to alleged Gülen links since the coup attempt.

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