As the fifth anniversary of a coup attempt in Turkey approaches, the country’s defense minister has announced that 23,364 personnel from the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been expelled over Gülen links since the failed coup, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the attempted coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Defense Minister Hulusi Akar’s statement came at the 5th International July 15 Symposium held by the July 15 Foundation at Marmara University on Tuesday. Akar was the country’s chief of general staff at the time of the coup.
Akar did not specify how many of the 23,364 people were military and how many were civil servants working for the TSK, but they were primarily officers of all ranks.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members, and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding.
The government removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the coup attempt.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.