Turkey’s sacked gov’t employees looking for answers three years after coup

A member of parliament from Turkey’s left wing pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, posted a document on Twitter a few weeks ago that shed light on an injustice that has blighted the lives of thousands in Turkey.

The email was a response sent in May by the Erzincan National Education Directorate to a teacher who was one of an estimated 180,000 public workers suspended in a series of purges after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. The message posted by Gergerlioğlu in essence told the teacher that they could no longer work in their profession in either public or private institutions.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government says the coup attempt was carried out by the Gülen religious movement, which is known in Turkey both for its extensive network of educational institutions and is accused of carrying out the coup.

Just working at a school that was closed for links to the Gülen movement has been enough to wreck thousands of careers.

Moreover, those affected, like the teacher referred to by Gergerlioğlu, face the prospect of what they call “civil death”, even if charges against them are dropped: thanks to the black mark on their records, no public institution will employ them, the majority of private firms also steer clear, and they can face all kinds of bureaucratic nightmares.

“I haven’t even received a refund for the payment I made for next year’s tuition for my children”, said Birsen, a teacher in Turkey who has been unable to reclaim any compensation from the school she worked for. “I can’t use the money that was returned when my debit card was cancelled. I can’t access my money in the bank. I can’t pay into my personal retirement plan.”

After decades of teaching, it took Birsen nine months just to receive a response to the petition she sent to the Education Ministry.

Teachers like Gökhan, whose school was shut down for suspected terror links, can find themselves suddenly not only out of a job, but also denied the compensation to help pay the rent. Gökhan was forced to move back in with his parents.

“I have yet to receive my last three months of salary, or the compensation I am entitled to. I haven’t even received a response to the letter I wrote to the Provincial Treasury two years ago,’’ the teacher said.

But the worst part is living with the stigma of being linked to a terror group, he explained. Pleas to the government to clear their names fall on deaf ears.

The government says the purges were necessary to remove their influence and quash the danger of another coup, but rights groups say many have been dismissed or charged on the basis of flimsy or non-existent evidence.

“The petitions we send receive two vague sentences after a full year without any actual information. We do not know what to do or how to continue with our lives,” he said.

Computer engineer and academic Zehra and her husband were hit hard by the post-coup crackdown. They both lost their jobs, just as they prepared to welcome a new baby into the world. Her police officer husband has been detained, and she moved in with her parents.

“My husband was arrested when my baby was a month old. The police took all of the electronic devices we had at home. My husband was sentenced to nine years over terror links, a sentence that the Court of Appeals approved. His case is now with the Supreme Court,’’ she explained.

Even her own mother and father have been given a travel ban due to her husband’s imprisonment, and the family’s ordeal has left their daughter with an important part of her life missing.

“My daughter doesn’t know her father,’’ she said.

© Ahval English

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.