Condemnation and Condolences regarding the Christchurch Mosque Shooting

We are deeply saddened about the terror attack that happened today in Christchurch, New Zealand. We offer our sincerest condolences to those who lost their loved ones and to the people of New Zealand. We strongly condemn this heinous attack that targeted believers while performing their worship service on their holy day.

Terrorism is an affliction that affects the entire humanity and we must all join hands to defeat it. We believe this disease can be treated through dialogue, education and by nurturing a perspective that sees every human as inherently worthy and dignified. We strongly hope that love and solidarity become widespread among all humans and similar tragedies won’t reoccur in the future.

Gulen on Le Monde: “Islam is Compatible with Democracy, Despite Turkey’s Recent Example”

Turkey was hailed as an example for a modern Muslim democracy during the early 2000s. The current ruling party that came to power in 2002 implemented reforms that were aligned with the European Union’s democratic standards and the country’s record in human rights began to improve.

Unfortunately, the democratic reforms were short lived. The process stalled only a few years later and then around 2011, following his third election victory, then-prime minister now president Erdogan made a complete U-turn. The slide into authoritarianism have made Turkey no longer an example for other Muslim-majority countries to aspire to.

Some may view the negative example Turkey presents under Erdogan as evidence of an incompatibility between democratic and Islamic values. But that would be an erroneous conclusion.

Despite the outward appearance of Islamic observance, Erdogan regime represents a complete betrayal of core Islamic values. These core values are not about a style of dressing or the use of religious slogans. They include respect for the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, accountability for the rulers and the preservation of inalienable rights and freedoms of every citizen. The recent setback in the Turkish democratic experience is not because of adherence to these Islamic values, but rather because of their betrayal.

Turkish society remains remarkably heterogeneous. Sunni or Alevi, Turk, Kurd or other in ethnicity, Muslim or non-Muslim, and religiously observant or secular in lifestyle Turkish citizens adhere to many different ideologies, philosophies, and beliefs. In such a society, the effort to make everyone the same is both futile and disrespectful to humanity. Participatory or democratic form of governance where no group, majority or minority, dominates the others is the only viable form of governance for such a diverse population. The same can be said of Syria, Iraq and other neighboring countries in the region.

In Turkey or elsewhere, authoritarian rulers have exploited the differences within the society to polarize various groups against each other and maintain their stronghold in power. Whatever beliefs or worldviews they have, citizens should come together around universal human rights and freedoms and be able to democratically oppose those who violate these rights.

Expressing yourself against oppression is a democratic right, a civic duty, and a religious duty for believers. The Quran states that people should not remain silent against injustice: “O you who have believe! Be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives.” (4:135)

Living according to your beliefs or worldview with the condition that it does no harm to others, and exercising fundamental human freedoms, especially freedom of speech, makes a person truly a human. Liberty is a right given by the Compassionate God, and no one—and no leader—can take that away. A person deprived of his or her basic rights and freedoms cannot be said to live a truly human life.

In contrast to claims by political Islamists, Islam is not a political ideology, it is a religion. It does have some principles that pertain to governance, but these account for, at most, five percent of all Islamic principles. To reduce Islam to a political ideology is the greatest crime against its ethos.

In the past those who studied or spoke about the Islamic perspective of politics and state made three errors: First, they confused the historical experiences of Muslims with the foundational sources of Islamic tradition, the Qur’an and the authentic sayings and practices of the Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings of God). Historical experiences of Muslims and the verdicts of the jurists under these circumstances should be analyzed with a critical eye, and cannot be given the same status as the authentic sources of religion. Secondly, some cherry-picked verses of the Qur’an or the sayings of the Prophet (pbuh) to legitimize their perspective and pursued to impose that perspective upon people. The spirit of the Qur’an and the Prophetic tradition (Sunnah) can only be understood with a holistic view and with a sincere intention to seek out the will of God. Third, some concluded, wrongfully, that democracy is fundamentally against Islam because Islam declares God as the only sovereign whereas democracy is based upon the sovereignty of the people. No believer doubts that God is the sovereign of the universe, but this does not mean that human agency, including thought, inclinations and willpower do not exist or are excluded from God’s greater plan for humanity. Giving sovereignty to the people does not mean usurping it from God, but rather taking the right and duty to govern, which is endowed to humans by God, from a dictator or an oligarchy and giving it back to the people.

The “state” is a system formed by human beings in order to protect their basic rights and freedoms and maintain justice and peace. The “state” is not a goal by itself, but an agency that helps people pursue happiness in this world and in the afterworld. The alignment of the state with a set of principles and values is a sum of the alignment of the individuals who make up the system with those principles and values. Therefore, the phrase “Islamic state” is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron. Similarly, since there is no clergy class in Islam, theocracy is alien to the spirit of Islam. A state is a result of a contract among humans, made up of humans, and it can neither be “Islamic” nor “holy”.

Democracies come in all shapes and sizes. The democratic ideal that underlies these forms, that no group has domination over the others, is also an Islamic ideal. The principle of equal citizenship is in alignment with acknowledging the dignity of every human being and respecting them as a work of art that was created by God. Participatory form of governance, whether it is called a democracy or republic, is much more in resonance with the Islamic spirit than other forms of government, including monarchies and oligarchies.

The present picture of Turkey’s leadership resembles an oligarchy rather than democracy. How did it go wrong?

President Erdogan has corrupted Turkey’s once-promising democracy, co-opting the state, seizing businesses and rewarding cronies. In order to consolidate enough of the public behind him to make his power grab, he has declared me and Hizmet movement participants the enemy of the state, blaming us for every negative incident in the country in the recent past. This is a textbook example of scapegoating.

The government under President Erdogan has pursued me and also hundreds of thousands of other people—critics of all stripes, but especially from the peaceful Hizmet movement. Environmental protesters, Journalists, Academics, Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslims, and some of the Sunni Muslim groups who have been critical of Erdogan’s actions have had their share of consequences of his political agenda. Lives have been ruined through sacking, confiscating, jailing, and torture.

Due to the ongoing persecution, thousands of Hizmet volunteers have sought asylum in around the Globe, including France. As new residents, they must abide by the laws of these countries, help find solutions to problems of those societies and lead an active struggle against the spread of radical interpretations of Islam in Europe.

Back in Turkey, a vast arrest campaign based on guilt by association is ongoing. The number of victims of this campaign of persecution keeps increasing, with over 150,000 losing jobs, over 200,000 detained and over 80,000 arrested and jailed. People who are targeted by politically-motivated prosecution and who want to leave are deprived of their fundamental right to leave the country as their passports are cancelled. Despite setbacks due to military coups, Turkish Republic has been on a path of continuous improvement in democracy since its beginning in 1923. Erdogan is draining the reputation that the Turkish Republic has gained in the international arena, pushing Turkey into the league of nations known for suffocating freedoms and jailing democratic dissenters. The ruling clique is exploiting diplomatic relations, mobilizing government personnel and resources to harass, haunt and abduct Hizmet movement volunteers all around the world.

In recent years, and in the face of such persecutions, Turkish citizens have remained relatively passive in conveying their democratic demands to their leaders. Concern for economic stability is one possible reason for this behavior. But if we backtrack from today, we can see that there is also a historic reason.

Despite the fact that democratic governance has been an ideal of Turkish Republic, democratic values have never been systematically ingrained into the Turkish society. Obedience to a strong leader and the state have always been a strong theme in educational curricula. The military coups, which happened almost every decade, did not give democracy a chance to take hold and progress. Citizens forgot that the state existed for the people and not vice versa. It can be argued that Erdogan took advantage of this collective psyche.

Turkish democracy may be in a coma due to the current leadership but I remain optimistic. Oppression does not last for too long. I believe that Turkey will one day return to the democratic path. However, for democracy to take root and be long lasting, several measures need to be taken.

First of all, the school curricula should be reevaluated. Topics such as equal rights for all citizens and fundamental human rights and freedoms should be taught to students in the first years of school so that they can be guardians of these rights when they grow up. Secondly, there is a need for a constitution that does not allow for either the minority or the majority’s domination and protects in every situation the fundamental human rights referred to in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Civil society and free press should be protected by the constitution to flourish and be part of the checks and balances against the state power. Thirdly, opinion leaders should emphasize democratic values in their rhetoric and action.

Turkey has now reached a point where democracy and human rights are put aside. It appears to have lost a historic opportunity to achieve a democracy by the standards of the European Union with  a majority Muslim population.

The leaders of a country are like the cream on top of a liquid. The cream is made of the same ingredients as the liquid underneath it. Leaders of a society, possibly with some level of inaccuracy or delay, reflect the beliefs and values of a society. I hope and pray that the recent sad experience of the Muslim majority countries lead to an awakening in the collective consciousness to produce democratically minded leaders and governments that uphold not only free an fair elections, but all fundamental human rights and freedoms.

Fethullah Gulen

The Gülen Community: Who to Believe – Politicians or Actions?

Thomas Michel

On July 15, 2016, while President Erdoğan was vacationing in the Mediterranean coastal town of Marmaris, Istanbul and Ankara were shaken by an attempted coup d’état carried out by certain members of the Turkish armed forces.

About seven years before that, in May 2009, I received an award at the International Turkish Olympiad. The festival was essentially a cultural event consisting of Turkish songs, dances, and poetry recitals performed by students from Turkish schools around the world. It took place in a modern convention hall in Ankara with thousands of spectators in attendance. The event was sponsored and organized by members of the Hizmet movement, a Muslim community inspired by the preaching and writings of Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen. When I, together with a handful of other recipients, mounted the stage to accept our awards, there to shake our hands was the smiling Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The incident underlines how less than a decade earlier relations between Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (known by its acronym, the AKP) and the Hizmet movement guided by Gülen’s teaching were characterized by cooperation and respect. Foreign observers in Ankara even referred to Hizmet as “the religious wing of the AKP.” Although inaccurate even in those days, such a characterization reflected a commonly held view among Turks and others that there was some kind of ideological link between the AKP and the followers of Gülen.

There is no doubt that the Gülen supporters had great influence in Turkey. They ran the best high schools and college prep institutions, and students from those schools, year after year, obtained the top scores in the standardized college entrance exams. Hizmet members published Zaman, the most widely circulated and highly regarded newspaper in Turkey, referred to by Erdoğan himself as “the guardian of democracy in Turkey.” Hizmet members published scores of professional journals and popular magazines. They established associations of medical professionals, teachers, and business leaders. They set up hospitals and clinics, and in Turkey’s highly polarized society they conducted national “dialogues” that brought together Turkish thinkers and leaders: Right and Left, Sunni and Alevi, Turk and Kurd, and Muslim, Jewish, and Christian.

However, storm clouds were gathering. Perceptive observers could see trouble ahead. In a prophetic column in the left-center Hurriyet newspaper on October 5, 2010, the late political commentator Mehmet Ali Birand noted:

“I don’t know whether they are aware of it, but a danger that needs to be taken very seriously awaits the Gülen movement. In the eyes of Turkish society, which believes conspiracy theories, the Gülen movement is mythicized beyond its real dimensions. The power and influence of the Gülen movement is being so exaggerated that if no precautions are taken, this imagined power will one day destroy it… If the current trend does not change, future politicians will go after this movement with a view to annihilating it.”

Birand, who claimed to be neither a member of Hizmet nor opposed to it, believed that, “The power attributed to the Gülen movement is enormously exaggerated. It does not reflect the truth but the winds of exaggeration…”

The first overt sign of tension between Gülen, who lives in retirement in the United States, and Erdoğan can be dated to the pro-democracy Gezi Park protests of June, 2013, when Gülen criticized the Turkish government’s heavy-handed suppression of the protests. The real break came later that year when investigators reportedly associated with Hizmet pursued charges of corruption leveled against the sons of various ministers of the Turkish government, implicating Erdoğan’s own son. Since then, Erdoğan (President of the Republic since 2014) has sought to destroy Hizmet and break its influence on Turkish society. After last summer’s failed coup, Erdoğan has accused Gülen of masterminding the coup and his followers of carrying it out. The government has undertaken a “McCarthyite” witch-hunt, resulting in the dismissal and arrest of university presidents, police chiefs, military officers, and newspaper editors, and the imprisonment of an estimated 60,000 Turkish citizens.

Erdoğan’s anti-Hizmet campaign has even affected U.S.-Turkish relations. The Turkish government has demanded Gülen’s extradition to Turkey, while Secretary of State under President Obama, John Kerry, noted that the United States does not extradite residents on the basis of unsubstantiated requests, even those made by Heads of State. He noted that the process of extradition must begin with the presentation of hard evidence of wrongdoing and that no evidence of the involvement of Gülen or Hizmet associates in the failed coup attempt has been forthcoming.

Unsatisfied with the Obama administration’s refusal to bow under pressure, the Turkish government looked to the future: they discussed, with retired US Army General Michael Flynn, ways that judicial processes might be bypassed in order that Mr. Gülen might be “removed” from the United States and sent to Turkey. The fact that such actions could violate U.S. laws does not seem to have been a deterrent either to Flynn or to the Turkish authorities concerned. Flynn was at the time an advisor to presidential candidate Donald Trump, and he later briefly served as National Security Advisor to President Trump before being fired for lying about his relations with Russian officials. It is evident that the Turkish government was willing to engage in underhanded and apparently illegal activities to get Gülen extradited from the United States.

Guilty or not guilty?

For those who know Mr. Gülen personally or have had contact with the open-hearted and idealistic members of the Hizmet movement, claims of subversive “terrorism,” (in Erdoğan’s words) seem incongruous. I have known Mr. Gülen for over 20 years and find the retired, soft-spoken Qur’an-teacher to be preaching and living a particularly attractive interpretation of Islamic faith. His bedrock concept is that of ikhlas, which means doing everything, no matter how modest or unassuming, wholly for God’s pleasure. This spiritual principle, which is hardly original or unique to Islam, has motivated Gülen’s followers to commit themselves to administering and teaching in schools in places as diverse as Phnom Penh, Brussels, Accra, and inner-city Milwaukee and Cleveland. They are digging wells in Somalia and Mali, running clinics in Kenya, and establishing interreligious dialogue programs in more than 200 locations in the United States.

Many Americans have come to know the Hizmet movement personally through the well-organized cultural trips to Turkey sponsored by these local dialogue associations. For many non-Muslims, the trips are their first direct encounter with an Islamic community devoted to peacebuilding and being a living expression of God’s compassion and mercy.

I greatly admire these Hizmet members, of whom I know hundreds, and many of whom I count among my personal friends. I have been to their annual retreats, where they encourage one another to live up to their lofty Islamic ideals. I have heard the testimony of Catholic leaders in Turkey and Turkish Jews that the Gülen followers are their partners and allies in striving to build a truly inclusive Turkish society. I have talked to Christian students from Mozambique and the Philippines, graduates of Hizmet schools, who are grateful for the excellent educational foundation they received. Could all this good work simply be public posturing, a façade to hide a conspiracy aimed at achieving domination and power? I suppose that it’s possible, but it seems pretty far-fetched and unlikely.

One might say that an outside observer’s positive opinion of the Hizmet movement begs the question of whether members of the movement, with Fethullah Gülen as mastermind, were in fact behind the July 2016 coup. Despite all his bluster, threats, and posturing, Erdoğan has not been able to produce any credible evidence linking the coup attempt to a Hizmet plot. The most he has been able to offer are a few statements by implicated generals, obtained under duress, which could be interpreted as suggesting a tenuous link with Gülen. For his part, Mr. Gülen has categorically denied any involvement in the coup, which he condemned, and called for an international impartial investigation into the coup and its background, a suggestion which Mr. Erdoğan has summarily rejected. One must ask which of the two would like to see the truth come out, and which is trying to keep the facts from coming to light.

I originally published a version of this article in Commonweal magazine in November 2016. Since then, Mr. Erdoğan has continued to make unsubstantiated claims about Hizmet involvement in the coup. He is not talking about the possible sympathy of one or another military officer toward Fethullah Gülen, but a centralized, organized effort conceived and directed by Gülen and carried out through the institutions and networking of Hizmet members. This scenario has been investigated with the professional expertise of the intelligence services of the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and NATO, who have clearly expressed their views of who they believe to have been behind the coup. None of them has been convinced by Erdoğan’s noisy but empty accusations.

I am not alone in asking Mr. Erdoğan, “Please produce evidence, if you have any, for your claims. Otherwise, why should anyone take your word for what appears to be a slander of this conscientious religious leader and a community that is doing much good in the world? Could your anti-Hizmet campaign be an act of revenge for the whistle-blowing against your family members, or a distraction aimed at preventing a continuing investigation of the corruption charges?”

The Turkey I No Longer Know

Fethullah Gulen

Turkey that I once knew as a hope-inspiring country on its way to consolidating its democracy and a moderate form of secularism has become the dominion of a president who is doing everything he can to amass power and subjugate dissent. Turkey, my homeland, is in need of help from the world to return to a democratic path.

Since July 15, 2016, following a deplorable coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has systematically persecuted innocent people — arresting, detaining, firing and otherwise ruining the lives of more than 300,000 Turkish citizens, be they Kurds, Alevis, secularists, leftists, journalists, academics or participants of Hizmet, the peaceful humanitarian movement with which I am associated.

As the coup attempt unfolded, I fiercely denounced it and denied any involvement. Furthermore, I said that anyone who participated in the putsch betrayed my ideals. Nevertheless, and without evidence, Erdogan immediately accused me of orchestrating it from 5,000 miles away.

The next day, the government produced lists of thousands of individuals whom they tied to Hizmet — for opening a bank account, teaching at a school or reporting for a newspaper — and treated such an affiliation as a crime and began destroying their lives. The lists included people who had been dead for months and people who had been serving at NATO’s European headquarters at the time. International watchdogs have reported numerous abductions, in addition to torture and deaths in detention. The government pursued innocent people outside Turkey, pressuring Malaysia, for instance, to deport three Hizmet sympathizers in May 2017, including a school principal who has lived there for more than a decade, to face certain imprisonment and likely torture.

In April, the president won a narrow referendum victory— amid allegations of serious fraud — to form an “executive presidency” without checks and balances, enabling him to control all three branches of the government. To be sure, through purges and corruption, much of this power was already in his hands. I fear for the Turkish people as they enter this new stage of authoritarianism.

It didn’t start this way. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power in 2002 by promising democratic reforms in pursuit of European Union membership. But as time went on, Erdogan became increasingly intolerant of dissent. He facilitated the transfer of many media outlets to his cronies through government regulatory agencies. In June of 2013, he crushed the Gezi Park protesters. In December of that year, when his cabinet members were implicated in a massive graft probe, he responded by subjugating the judiciary and the media. The “temporary” state of emergency declared after last July 15 is still in effect. According to Amnesty International, one-third of all imprisoned journalists in the world are in Turkish prisons.

Erdogan’s persecution of his people is not simply a domestic matter. The ongoing pursuit of civil society, journalists, academics and Kurds in Turkey is threatening the long-term stability of the country. The Turkish population already is strongly polarized on the AKP regime. A Turkey under a dictatorial regime, providing haven to violent radicals and pushing its Kurdish citizens into desperation, would be a nightmare for Middle East security.

The people of Turkey need the support of their allies around the world to restore their democracy.

Two measures are critical to reversing the democratic regression in Turkey.

First, a new civilian constitution should be drafted through a democratic process involving the input of all segments of society and that is on par with international legal and humanitarian norms, and drawing lessons from the success of long-term democracies in the West.

Second, a school curriculum that emphasizes democratic and pluralistic values and encourages critical thinking must be developed. Every student must learn the importance of balancing state powers with individual rights, the separation of powers, judicial independence and press freedom, and the dangers of extreme nationalism, politicization of religion and veneration of the state or any leader.

Before either of those things can happen, however, the Turkish government must stop the repression of its people and redress the rights of individuals who have been wronged by Erdogan without due process.

I probably will not live to see Turkey become an exemplary democracy, but I pray that the downward authoritarian drift can be stopped before it is too late.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/the-turkey-i-no-longer-know

Erdoǧan’s Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children

by Sophia Pandya

Human rights violations in Turkey have increased exponentially in the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 attempted coup. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan blamed the plot on the Hizmet (Gülen) movement, and seized the opportunity to throw many of those he considered as opposition in jail. In all, over a hundred thousand people have been arrested, despite a lack of evidence against the vast majority of those detained. The UK Foreign Affairs Committee states there is a lack of credible evidence the movement was behind the coup, and Fethullah Gülen, Hizmet’s founding figure, flatly denies involvement.

Nonetheless, since July 15, women have been subjected to an uptick of a variety of intimidation strategies, including rape, the threat of rape, harassment, and other forms of violence—not only by Erdoǧan’s AKP-led (Justice and Development) government, but also by civilians emboldened by the new climate in which macho, hyper-masculinity and misogyny have become widespread. Many women whose families are affiliated with the groups currently targeted by the crackdown (i.e. Hizmet participants, Kurds, Alevis) have reported experiencing psychological trauma. Unsurprisingly, the political turmoil has also negatively affected children in a myriad of
ways.

Declaring a “state of emergency” (still in place for an indefinite period of time), and abandoning the European Convention for Human Rights, Erdoǧan has also fired thousands of educators, police, judges, prosecutors, journalists, and shut down (or taken over) schools, universities, businesses, and media outlets. On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the attempted coup, he sacked 7,000 more in a single day. This unprecedented onslaught is widely termed the “purge,” and the Turkish president appears willing to refashion the very fabric of society through oppression and violence. Internationally considered a populist authoritarian, Erdoǧan has also incited attacks against those he opposes. Recently, he called for the reinstatement of the death penalty and the beheading of those he deems responsible for the coup.

The Turkish president is also no feminist: he has stated that women who have not chosen to bear at least three children are “deficient” and “incomplete,” and that women have a “delicate nature” and are “unequal” to men. Not long after the putsch attempt, feminists noted an increase in attacks and harassment on the street. Journalist Pinar Ersoy writes that women have been “silenced” during the purge, and that women’s groups have been targeted. A soccer club executive actually tweeted that the wives of any coup plotters should be considered “spoils of war.” The lack of women during street protests also speaks to the heightened climate of fear.

During and after political conflict in general, women and children are the ones most severely afflicted by hardships such as poverty, displacement, insecurity, and sexual and domestic violence. In the aftermath, men tend to attempt to reinstate patriarchal “order,” sometimes through violent means. During the purge in Turkey, women from a variety of marginalized communities (Kurdish, Alevi, Hizmet-affiliated) have been particularly affected by financial difficulties, violence, rape, and demeaning treatment, even during and after childbirth. A forty year-old lawyer, Frank brought his family to the US despite his wife’s reluctance to leave Turkey, when he realized that the government was even “jailing mothers with ten day-old children.” He added, “I couldn’t take this risk.”

An estimated 16,000 to 20,000 women are currently held in prison; in some cases, they’re being used as hostages to coerce their male relatives to return to Turkey from abroad, and as an intimidation technique intended to silence dissent among their families. Tarik, a fifty year-old man in the construction business from eastern Turkey, fled his homeland but worried about his family being arrested in his place as he is affiliated with the Hizmet movement. He stated, “They also started putting wives in jail if they can’t find their husbands. So, my family came to the US in January.” In prison, women report being subjected to systematic humiliation, including naked searches by male guards. In a Muslim patriarchal society, a violation of a women’s body is a dishonor to her entire family, especially for her male kinfolk who are traditionally responsible for protecting her. An acquaintance in his twenties, affiliated with the Hizmet movement, told me that his fiancé abruptly broke off their engagement after her trauma of spending time in jail.

For many women not jailed or physically hurt, the psychological effects of the purge are nevertheless damaging. Fatma, a forty-two-year-old housewife from Erzurum, was briefly detained and interrogated about her husband’s Hizmet-related activities. After her release, she began having problems with her mental health. She confided, “Because my psychological state was so bad, I took medications. I’m still under this medication.” Her eighteen-year-old daughter, Hatice, also suffered from the stigma when her classmates found out about the allegations against her father, and they socially ostracized her.

Children exposed to political conflict are also in danger of suffering from PTSD or anxiety. Currently, over 500 children are being raised in jail by those mothers who are among the imprisoned, or left behind when their mothers are suddenly detained, in one case in a parking lot. Fatma’s younger daughter, Elif, 17, expressed frustration with being displaced by the coup. Now attending school in California, she said, “I feel stupid, because I don’t speak English. Yes, I cried when I left Turkey, because we were living with our grandparents. I miss all my family members. After we left, our grandmother got paralyzed because of these events.”

Tarik also spoke to me about the effect the purge had on his children. He explained, “My kids’ psychological well-being was disturbed because every time my car stopped, they worried that the police had stopped us. Police officers with rifles were coming to their schools during school hours, like SWAT teams.” When his younger daughter finally arrived in the US, she didn’t leave her room for the first two weeks.

Many children affected by the coup also found their education disrupted. A sixteen-year-old boy was stuck in Seattle, having arrived on a trip with friends, right before the events of July 15th. He said that the government had shut his old school down, and that if he returned, he would be assigned to a random public school. He was unsure about whether or not he would seek asylum in the US, or return, but he was most distressed about his family still in Turkey. He explained, “I’m sad about my family and their future, and what might happen to them. I’m concerned about their security.” Over two thousand educational institutes in Turkey have been closed, and tens of thousands of teachers and professors were fired. Due to the instability caused both by the purge and attacks by the Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), intellectuals are fleeing the country, leading to a Turkish “brain drain.”

Women and children are the unseen victims of Erdoǧan’s purge, and the effects will doubtless reverberate through Turkish society for decades. Those thousands of women jailed are acutely vulnerable to physical (including sexual), emotional, and psychological abuse. If they have young children, these children are either left behind, or they find themselves also behind bars. Those women at home whose male relatives are incarcerated risk financial hardship, displacement, and lack of physical security. The children at risk face the disruption of their education, as well as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. According to psychologist Jack Saul, survivors of collective trauma may also experience a sense of betrayal and insecurity, shattered relationships, and the inability for adults to effectively care for their children. For the most vulnerable victims, weaving lives back together again, and moving towards healing, will be an immense challenge.

Source: https://www.fountainmagazine.com/Issue/detail/erdoans-most-vulnerable-victims-women-and-children