President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest batch of presidential decrees has transformed Turkey into a nation of government-endorsed militias and "anti-terror vigilantes."
According to Ahval, Erdogan published Turkey's latest state of emergency government decree – the country has been under a perpetual state of emergency since the summer of 2016 failed coup – in the Official Gazette on Sunday. And not only does it condone the purging of thousands of civil servants from their jobs, but, in an unprecedented escalation, grants immunity to "those who took to the streets during the coup attempt" or "assisted with suppressing terror." Furthermore: ''Notwithstanding whether individuals hold a formal title or whether they have fulfilled a formal duty, those who have acted in the scope of suppressing the coup attempt and acts of terror on July 15, 2016, and actions that were extensions of these events'' will be exempt from being put on trial for their actions."
Of course, anyone who has been following the situation in Turkey over the past year-and-a-half (and certainly longer) knows that “suppressing terror” is Erdogan's popular euphemism for punishing or imprisoning suspected Gulenist sympathizers, and also anyone who dares to bring attention to Erdogan's brazen corruption.
As a result, the Turkish president has been busy lately, signing a flurry of decrees that have further consolidated political power in the office of the president – a stunning reversal from the early days of Erdogan’s political career, when he was a well-regarded moderate advocating much needed government reforms.
Experts note that decrees no. 695 and no. 696 remove legislative authority from Parliament, effectively completing the erosion of the legislature’s authority that began with April’s constitutional referendum, a vote that EU observers condemned as “neither fair, nor free."
As Ahval added, legal expert Kerem Altparmak tweeted Sunday that "with the changes arriving with the new decree, an absolute legal immunity has been put into effect for any kind of killing and the infliction of injuries that took place on the night of July 15th as well as its aftermath."
KHK ile getirilen de?i?likle 15 temmuz gecesi ve devam?nda gerçekle?en her türlü öldürme, yaralama olay?nda mutlak cezas?zl?k geçerli. Bu sald?r?lar?n ma?durlar? ve ma?durlar?n?n yak?nlar? art?k iç hukuk yolunu tüketmeden do?rudan A?HMe ba?vurabilir.
— Kerem ALTIPARMAK (@KeremALTIPARMAK) December 24, 2017
Selin Girit, a reporter with the Turkish edition of BBC, said the decree "could pave the way for pro-government militia and risks heightening tensions within an already deeply polarised society."
#Turkey emergency decree grants immunity to “civilians who take action in order to prevent coup plots and terror attacks”. Critics say this decree could pave the way for a pro-government militia and risks heightening tensions w/ in an already deeply polarised society https://t.co/NlNaEcGBTv
— Selin Girit (@selingirit) December 24, 2017
Sunday's decree also enforces a uniform on those who have been arrested or are serving a sentence in conjunction with crimes that fall under the scope of the post-coup terrorism law: The new uniforms – which will be golden brown jumpsuits and which appear to have been inspired by Germany's treatment of Jews in World War II – are to be provided by penal institutions.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Officials have indicated that newly implemented uniform rule will only encompass those who are suspects of what the government has labelled the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO) and are accused of having supported the attempted coup. Though some observers expect the definition to be widely expanded. Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrikulu took to Twitter in criticism of the new decrees, noting, "The enforcement of a standardised uniform is a violation of human dignity; it is an inhumane practice, it is torture."
Yeni KHK ile tutuklu ve hükümlülere tek tip elbise giyme zorunlulu?u getirildi.
Tek tip dayatmas? insan onuruna ayk?r?d?r, insanl?k d??? muameledir, i?kencedir.
— Sezgin Tanr?kulu (@MSTanrikulu) December 24, 2017
While many of Erdogan’s political allies have stood by in silence as Turkish police forces hounded hundreds of thousands of regular citizens suspected of supporting an exiled cleric and political dissident, some are finally speaking out against the supreme leader’s ruthless crackdown following a July 15, 2016 coup attempt. In a dramatic break from tradition, on Monday Abdullah Gul, Erdogan’s predecessor as president of Turkey and a longtime political ally, publicly criticized the decrees, saying it grants too much latitude to civilians to commit acts of violence without any legal repercussions, as Bloomberg pointed out.
“The language used in the writing of emergency order number 696, which I thought was made to protect our heroic citizens who took to the streets without looking back to resist the treacherous coup attempt of July 15, is vague in a way that’s inappropriate for legal language and is worrying from the perspective of rule of law,” he said on Twitter.
15 Temmuz hain darbe te?ebbüsüne kar?? arkas?na bakmadan soka?a ç?k?p direnen kahraman vatanda?lar?m?z? koruma amac?yla ç?kart?ld???n? dü?ündü?üm 696 say?l? KHK’n?n yaz?m?ndaki hukuk diliyle ba?da?mayan mu?lakl?k, hukuk devleti anlay??? aç?s?ndan kayg? vericidir.
— Abdullah Gül (@cbabdullahgul) December 25, 2017
?lerde hepimizi üzecek olaylara ve geli?melere f?rsat vermemek için gözden geçirilece?ini ümit ediyorum.
— Abdullah Gül (@cbabdullahgul) December 25, 2017
The decrees also dismissed 2,766 people from various state institutions over alleged links to "terror" organizations, while another 115 people were reinstated to their jobs by the decrees.
Since the July 2016 coup attempt – perpetrated by a faction within the country’s military that Erdogan claimed was loyal to exiled cleric Fehtullah Gulen, who is presently living in exile in Pennsylvania – Turkey has shuttered news organizations, jailed journalists, civil servants and other citizens who’ve been accused of supporting the Gulenist movement. Erdogan and Gulen were once political allies, until they had a falling out that ended with the cleric going into exile.
In the 18 months that have passed since Erdogan – who was outside of Ankara when the coup took place – took to Facetime to urge Turkish citizens to take to the streets and suppress the coup – tens of thousands of ordinary citizens have fled or simply disappeared.
Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies have spooked international investors, who have scrambled to pull their capital out of Turkey – a country whose economy is heavily dependent on foreign sources of funds – with the recent surge in outflows sending the Turkish lira to an all-time low against the dollar last month.