Former Deputy Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker Bülent Arınç, who is currently a member of the Presidential Higher Advisory Board, has described the purge of thousands of civil servants from their jobs in the aftermath of a failed coup as a “disaster,” offering his apologies to the purge victims.
Arınç’s remarks came during an interview on Thursday on the YouTube channel of Kemal Öztürk, the Anadolu news agency’s former general manager.
“There are so many people around me who suffered this tragedy. I feel sorry for them, I have sympathy for them. I am actually apologizing to them. I feel so ashamed when I see the woman who comes to my house to clean because she was purged as the director [of a state agency]. A police officer whose spouse, a fellow police officer, was also purged,” he said.
Turkey experienced a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that claimed the lives of 249 people and injured a thousand others.
Immediately after the abortive putsch the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement and labeled it as a terrorist organization, while the movement has consistently denied any involvement in the coup or terrorism.
The government, which declared a state of emergency (OHAL) in the aftermath of the coup attempt, removed 150,000 public servants from their jobs through government decrees, known as KHKs, while 30,000 others have been jailed under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Arınç also denied having any role in the issuing of the controversial government decrees that affected the lives of so many people.
“They portray me as a person who played a role in the purge of the government workers during the OHAL period. This is a complete lie. … I left active politics during the June 7, 2015 general elections, I did not become a member of parliament. I withdrew from active politics one year before the coup attempt. So I have no signatures on the decrees and bear no responsibility for them,” said Arınç .
Arınç also said an OHAL commission established by the government to look into complaints from individuals who were affected by government decrees during OHAL was not functioning properly.
The OHAL commission rejected 77,600 applications out of the 126,200 it has processed since its establishment in summer 2017, according to a written statement from the commission in August.
After several years of a break from politics, Arınç was appointed as a member of the Presidential Higher Advisory Board by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May.