ABOUT 50,000 people, including 3000 judges and more than 15,000 teachers, have been suspended or sacked from their positions in Turkey as the government responds to last weekend’s failed coup attempt. Troops took to the streets, and warplanes fired missiles at the country’s parliament, as the military sought to wrest control from the Islamist President, Recep Tayyip Ĕrdogan.
President Ĕrdogan said that 208 people were killed in the uprising and nearly 1500 people injured — 232 of them “severely”. He has blamed the exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for the coup attempt and urged the US to extradite him.
“A person of this kind can easily be extradited on grounds of suspicion,” Mr Ĕrdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, told the AP news agency. “And there is very strong suspicion for Gulen’s involvement in this coup attempt. So this is sufficient ground.”
A White House spokesman said that the extradition request would be determined in accordance with a treaty between the US and Turkey.
Mr Ĕrdogan has warned of the most severe consequences for those behind the coup, hinting that the death penalty, which was abolished in 2004 as part of the country’s efforts to join the European Union, may be re-introduced as he seeks to cleanse the country of the “cancerous cells”.
“That they wear uniforms doesn’t change the fact that these terrorists are actually members of a treason gang,” Mr Ĕrdogan said of the coup-plotters, in a video message. “Traitors could emerge from within our army just like the judges, prosecutors, security members, and other similar people from other institutions, who serve the same treason gang despite their uniforms and gowns.
“The Turkish Armed Forces and our troops are the apple of our eye. Cancerous cells that have spread to the Turkish Armed Forces will swiftly be cleaned.” He said that preparations for the “clean-up” had already begun; but that those responsible for the dissent “have disclosed themselves with this coup attempt and eased our work in a sense”.
In addition to the teachers and other education staff, university deans, interior and finance ministry workers, police, and judges who have been sacked, suspended, or forced to resign, Turkey has arrested more than 6000 military personnel, and cancelled the licences of 24 radio and TV channels.
Churches in Turkey have responded with calls to prayer. The Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt Revd David Hamid, said that he had been in touch with the C of E’s clergy in Turkey on Friday night. “They are all safe and there are no reports of casualties from among our parishioners,” he said. “But all are keeping vigilant.”
He described the coup attempt as “a night of upheaval, violence, gunfire, explosions, and political and military action”.
In a message on his Eurobishop blog, he said: “We pray for wisdom for the authorities and for understanding, restraint and a way forward that is just and serves the good of all the citizens of the country.”
A network of Christian churches and organisations in the region, Middle East Concern, reported that two churches were targeted and damaged during the coup attempt. “A group of about ten people attacked the Catholic church of Santa Maria” in the Black Sea resort of Trabzon, they said. “They used paving stones to break the church windows and an attempt was made to break into the church building using hammers. Muslim neighbours intervened, drove the perpetrators away and contacted the priest. . .
“In Malatya unidentified people tried to break the windows of Malatya Protestant Church and succeeded in breaking the glass panels in the door. The pastor Tim Stone believes it was just someone with a grudge against the church taking advantage of the general unrest.”
Middle East Concern says that both churches had suffered persecution in the recent past: the priest of Santa Maria Church, Fr Andrea Santoro, was murdered in February 2006, and three Christian workers were murdered at the church in Malatya in April 2007.
A group of religious leaders — including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Chief Rabbi Rav Izak Haleva, acting Armenian Patriarch Aram Atesyan, Assyrian Orthodox Metropolitan Yusuf Çetin, and Assyrian Catholic acting Patriarch Yusuf Sag – issued a joint declaration condemning the coup and calling for “love, peace and justice to reign in Turkey”.
Many church leaders are keeping their heads down. One church leader, who wanted to remain anonymous because of the security situation, told Premier Christian Radio: “We want peace. We want those who live in fear and who are truly seeking God, to find Him.”