The Remarkable Scale of Turkey’s “Global Purge”

How It Became a Threat to the Rule of Law Everywhere

Taksim square in Istanbul, Turkey, July 17, 2016. Ammar Awad / Reuters

In October of last year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke at a gathering of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) about the steps that have been taken so far to eliminate the Islamic movement of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen whom he blames for organizing the July 15, 2016, coup attempt. After describing some of the domestic measures that he has pursued to stamp out the group, known officially as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETO), Erdogan noted his desire to also take down its networks abroad.

“Neither in the East nor in the West is a single member of this organization comfortable as before, nor will they be,” he said. “If not today, then tomorrow, one day every member of the FETO traitors’ front will pay for his treason against the country and the nation.”

These were not idle words. Since before the coup attempt, but with frantic intensity since then, the Turkish state has been hunting its opponents abroad, especially those who belong to the Gulen movement. In at least 46 countries across four continents, Turkey has pursued an aggressive policy to silence its perceived enemies and has allegedly used Interpol as a political tool to target its opponents. Ankara has revoked thousands of passports, and achieved the arrest, deportation, or rendition of hundreds of Turkish citizens from at least 16 countries, including many who were under UN protection as asylum seekers. It has successfully pressured at least 20 countries to close or transfer to new owners dozens, perhaps hundreds, of Gulen movement schools.

Turkey is not unique in pursuing its opponents abroad, nor is it the first time it has done so. But this “global purge,” which mirrors the effort after the coup attempt to rid Turkey’s domestic institutions of anyone associated with Gulen, is remarkable in its speed, scale, and aggression. It demonstrates how normal what the political scientist Dana M. Moss calls “transnational repression” has become, and how its widespread application has demolished the hope that the globalization of a

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