Turkey suspends 15,000 education staff and makes all deans resign

Ankara closes down media outlets it says support alleged instigator of failed coup

Turkey’s prime minister Binali Yildirim: told parliament that “This parallel terrorist organisation will no longer be an effective pawn for any country. We will dig them up by their roots.” Photograph: Erhan Ortac/Getty Images

Turkey’s purge of public servants widened further yesterday when 15,000 people were suspended from the education ministry and the deans of the country’s universities were all ordered to resign.

The government also revoked the licences of 21,000 teachers working at private institutions and closed down media outlets deemed to be supportive of a US-based cleric, who Ankara claims was behind last week's botched coup.

The latest moves into education and the media signal a crackdown that reaches widely across a broad sweep of public and private life in Turkey.

President Tayyip Erdogan's government says it is rooting out allies of his one-time ally, Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by Ankara of masterminding the coup. But Mr Erdogan's critics claim he is using the backlash against coup plotters to consolidate power and stifle dissent.


About 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended or detained since the attempted uprising. “This parallel terrorist organisation will no longer be an effective pawn for any country,” prime minister Binali Yildirim told parliament. “We will dig them up by their roots.”

On Tuesday, authorities shut down media outlets deemed to be supportive of Mr Gülen and said 15,000 people had been suspended from the education ministry, 492 from the Religious Affairs Directorate, and 257 from the prime minister’s office, as well as 100 intelligence officials.

Mr Erdogan's office said the government was preparing a formal request to the United States for the extradition of Mr Gülen (75). He lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania but has a network of supporters in Turkey.

Staged coup

The cleric has denied any role in the revolt and suggested that Mr Erdogan staged it as an excuse for a crackdown after a steady accumulation of control during 14 years in power.

Washington has said it will consider Mr Gülen’s extradition only if clear evidence against him is provided.

"We have more than enough evidence, more than you could ask for, on Gülen," Justice minister Bekir Bozdag said yesterday. "There is no need to prove the coup attempt. All evidence shows that the coup attempt was organised on his will and orders."

Turkey has faced international calls for restraint in its handling of the aftermath of the failed coup. Yesterday the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed “serious alarm” at the mass suspension and arrests of judges and prosecutors and urged Turkey to allow independent monitors to visit those who have been detained.

The foreign ministry has said criticism of the government’s response amounts to backing the coup.

Turkey scrapped capital punishment in 2004 in order to comply with one of the conditions for starting talks on future EU membership. European leaders have warned Ankara that restoring it would derail its EU aspirations.

However, in the aftermath of the coup, Mr Erdogan has repeatedly called for parliament to consider his supporters’ demands to apply the death penalty for the plotters.

Mr Yildirim said Turkey would respect the rule of law and not be driven by revenge in prosecuting suspected coup plotters.

Speaking alongside the leader of the main secularist opposition Republican People’s Party, the prime minister said the country must avoid the risk that some people might try to exploit the current situation. “We need unity . . . and brotherhood now,” he said.

The Nationalist Movement Party, a right-wing grouping and the smallest of the three opposition parties represented in parliament, said it would back the government if it moved to restore the death penalty.

More than 6,000 soldiers and about 1,500 others have been detained since the abortive coup. About 8,000 police officers have been removed on suspicion of links to the plot.

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic

Ruadhán Mac Cormaic is the Editor of The Irish Times