Turkey jailed 220,000 people on dubious terrorism charges between 2016 and 2019, rights group the Arrested Lawyers initiative said on Friday, a figure nearly on par with China’s detention of Uighurs on bogus terror charges, with Beijing convicting 250,000 people, mostly Uighurs and Muslims, between 2016 and 2018 according to official data.
In July 2016 a botched coup took place in Turkey, in the aftermath of which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a state of emergency and the government launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent using the country’s vague anti-terror law, detaining and arresting hundreds of thousands in the ensuing years.
Also in 2016 Beijing escalated its repressive “Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism,” and from that time until 2018 Chinese courts sentenced 250,000 people on terror charges, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.
According to data we compiled from the Turkish Government's official reports, within the years of 2016 and 2019, more than 220,000 people have been convicted for membership of an armed terrorist organisation. Data for 2010 has not been published yet. https://t.co/ilLyb4jGxv
— The Arrested Lawyers (@ArrestedLawyers) February 26, 2021
“According to data we compiled from the Turkish government’s official reports, within the years of 2016 and 2019, more than 220,000 people have been convicted for membership of an armed terrorist organization. Data for 2020 has not been published yet,” the Arrested Lawyer initiative tweeted, quoting Human Rights Watch Australia director Elaine Pearson, who had tweeted the figures for Chinese imprisonment of Uighurs.
The Uighurs are a minority group numbering some 11 million in Xinjiang, 45 percent of the region’s population.
China has been widely accused of forcing Uighurs into camps where security officers and guards subject Uighur women to sterilization.
Researchers say the birth rate among Uighurs has plummeted in the past few years due to China’s crackdown on the Muslim minority.
Beijing is pursuing “demographic genocide” through the use of forced mass sterilization campaigns,” Adrian Zenz, a German scholar, told France 24.
The United States, Canada and the Netherlands have so far recognized China’s treatment of Uighurs as genocide.
Ankara’s post-coup crackdown
There are some pundits who view Turkey’s treatment of a faith-based group as a genocide in the making.
The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government and President Erdoğan of masterminding the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
“The increasingly widespread witch-hunt, systematic and widespread hate speech, ongoing persecution and massacre of Gülen movement members have made conditions in Turkey ripe for a deliberate, planned and systematic genocide,” Bülent Keneş, a veteran Turkish journalist in exile, wrote in his 2020 book, which he says attempts to sound the alarm to the international community about developments in Turkey that are inching closer to a full-fledged genocide against the Gülen movement, a faith-based group targeted by the Turkish government.
“More than 130,000 people have been dismissed from their civil service jobs and deprived of their and their families’ subsistence. More than 282,000 people of all ages, because of their daily activities, which are non-criminal acts according to law and part of their normal routine, have been taken into custody, and in excess of 600,000 have been the subject of investigations. At least 77,000 people have been incarcerated,” Keneş said in a December interview with Turkish Minute.
“After a failed coup in July 2016, which Erdoğan unsurprisingly accused the Gülen movement of instigating, Turkey took a nosedive in the world with respect to the rule of law, rights and freedoms,” Keneş said, “after which a full-on persecution of the group was launched.”
Scores of Gülen movement followers were forced to flee Turkey to avoid a government crackdown following the coup attempt. Some of these people had to take illegal and risky journeys on dinghies to Greece because their passports were revoked by the government.
According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on February 20, a total of 622,646 people have been the subject of investigation and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the Gülen movement.
The Early Warning Project, an initiative by the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, ranked Turkey in eighth place among 162 countries for “estimated risk for onset of mass killing in 2020-2021.”