Turkey: The Hizmet movement, also known as the Gülen movement, including situation and treatment of followers or perceived followers; how members of the Hizmet movement are identified, including how persons or organizations might be perceived as belonging to the movement (July 2018-December 2019)
1. Foundation and Core Beliefs/Overview
Sources indicate that the Fethullah Gülen movement is called Hizmet, which means "service" in Turkish (CBC 21 July 2016; DW 6 Apr. 2018). It can also be referred to as the cemaat (Watmough and Öztürk 4 May 2018, 39; The Atlantic 18 July 2016), or "community" (The Atlantic 18 July 2016). Fethullah Gülen is a Turkish Islamic cleric who has been living in "self-imposed exile" in the US since 1999 (CBC 21 July 2016; DW 6 Apr. 2018).
In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the President of the Journalists and Writers Foundation (JWF), a New York-based international civil society organization "dedicated to globally advancing the culture of peace, human rights and sustainable development" [and whose honorary president is Fethullah Gülen (JWF n.d.)], indicated that "[t]he Hizmet movement has undergone several transformations from a small religious community to a larger conservative community to an inclusive society with the principles of service, altruism, and dedication to society" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). According to Gulenmovement.com, a website "launched and … maintained by a group of volunteers" (Gulenmovement.com n.d.a), the objective of participants of this movement is "to attain God's good pleasure based on the conviction that 'service to humanity is service to God'"; the movement is primarily composed of Turkish Muslims, but there are also others from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds (Gulenmovement.com n.d.b).
Sources indicate that Gülen was a former political ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, prior to a deterioration of their relations in 2013 (Senior Fellow 13 Sept. 2016; DW 6 Apr. 2018) due to Gülen supporters in the police instigating corruption investigations against the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) (Senior Fellow 13 Sept. 2016) or because the AKP was investigated for corruption, which "had allegedly been masterminded by Gulen" (DW 6 Apr. 2018). A non-resident senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies' Silk Road Studies Program, interviewed by the Research Directorate in September 2016, stated that, in the time period from 2008 to 2012, the Gülen movement "was regarded as even more powerful than Erdogan" and some people joined the movement for the connections and power that it provided (Senior Fellow 13 Sept. 2016). Deutsche Welle (DW) reports that "Gulen supporters previously held many positions in the Turkish state apparatus, which they used to their own advantage, and which [the AKP] tolerated. That is, until Erdogan and Gulen had a falling out" (DW 13 July 2018). Following the split between Erdoğan and Gulen, media sources report that Turkish authorities accused Gülen of running a "'parallel'" structure within the Turkish state (CBC 21 July 2016; DW 6 Apr. 2018).
2. Attempted Coup and State of Emergency
On 15 July 2016, elements of Turkey's military attempted a coup (Pandya Winter 2017; Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 4). The coup was averted by government officials, but resulted in over 1,500 people wounded and more than 200 people killed (Amnesty International 22 May 2017, 4; AFSV [Oct.] 2016, 8; Pandya Winter 2017). In response to the failed coup, the Turkish government declared a 90-day state of emergency across the country on 20 July 2016 (Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 4; Turkey [21 July] 2016). In the declaration, the Turkish government identified the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ) as responsible for the coup and affirmed that they would "fight against the FETÖ" "in a comprehensive and effective manner" (Turkey [21 July] 2016). The Turkish government stated that the purpose of the state of emergency was "to take required measures … in order to save the nation … and return to normalcy as soon as possible," while "respecting the fundamental rights of citizens" (Turkey [21 July] 2016). The state of emergency was extended seven times before it was lifted on 18 July 2018 (Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 4; HRF Apr. 2019, 14). According to sources, during the state of emergency, the government introduced a series of emergency decrees that bypassed parliamentary scrutiny and judicial review procedures (UN Mar. 2018, para. 4; HRF Apr. 2019, 15). A 2019 report by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), a New York-based "nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally" (HRF n.d.), states that the measures enacted by the government since July 2016 have caused "a dramatic erosion of the rule of law and a significant deterioration of [Turkey's] human rights record" (HRF Apr. 2019, 3). Similarly, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports that the decrees have "fall[en] short of basic human rights safeguards and Turkey's obligations under international law" (UN Mar. 2018, 4).
3. Aftermath of State of Emergency
According to the key findings of a 2019 report by the European Commission on Turkey, the Turkish government introduced 36 decrees during the state of emergency (EU 28 May 2019, 1). According to JWF's President, "the government took permanent measures, which went beyond a temporary state of emergency" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). Sources indicate that though the state of emergency was lifted on 18 July 2018 (Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 4; HRF Apr. 2019, 14; EU 28 May 2019), "many of the legislative measures adopted during the period have been transformed into permanent legislation" (HRF Apr. 2019, 18). Al Jazeera reports that days after the end of the state of emergency, the Turkish government ratified "a tough anti-terrorism bill" (Al Jazeera 25 July 2018). According to the same source, "[t]he new legislation allows authorities to control who can enter and exit an area for 15 days for reasons of security" and "authorizes the government to dismiss personnel of [the] Turkish Armed Forces, police and gendarmerie departments, public servants and workers if they are found linked to a terror organization" (Al Jazeera 25 July 2018). Similarly, Human Rights Watch reports that the legislation approved by the Turkish government in August 2018 allows for the "widening [of] broad powers of appointed provincial governors to restrict assemblies and movement; executive authority for three years to dismiss public officials, including judges, by administrative decision; and increased police powers[,] including custody periods extendable for up to 12 days" (Human Rights Watch 17 Jan. 2019). The same source adds that "[m]ost [of the public officials who have been dismissed] are alleged to be associated with the Fethullah Gülen religious movement" (Human Rights Watch 17 Jan. 2019). A January 2019 policy brief by the JWF further indicates that the "amendments to key pieces of legislation have aimed at … banning … political and social opposition, with those accused of links with the Hizmet movement bearing the brunt of state oppression" (JWF Jan. 2019, 12).
In May 2017, the Turkish government established the Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures (Turkey June 2019, 3). The Turkish government indicates that the Commission's mandate is to "assess and conclude the applications concerning dismissal from public service, cancellation of scholarship, annulment of the ranks of retired personnel and closure of institutions and organizations which were carried out directly by the decree laws within the scope of the state of emergency" (Turkey June 2019, 3). The Anadolu Agency (AA), Turkey's official press agency (AFP n.d.), states that "[f]rom Dec. 22, 2017 to Aug. 29, 2019 some 6,700 appeals were accepted while 77,600 of them were rejected" (AA 29 Aug. 2019). The Platform for Peace and Justice (PPJ), "a platform that monitors and reports the developments in the fields of peace, justice, democracy, the rule of law and human rights, with a special focus on Turkey" (PPJ n.d.), similarly indicates that the "rejection rate" before the Commission is 92.5 percent (PPJ July 2019, 13). The same source notes, citing documents by the UN and the Council of Europe, that the Commission has a narrow scope and "a lack of independence and impartiality since the majority of its members are appointed by the Government" and that "[w]orkload, available time-frame and high rejection rates cast doubts on whether individualized treatment to all cases has effectively been given" (PPJ July 2019, 13-14). As of the time of writing its 2019 annual report, Human Rights Watch indicated that the Commission had enacted 2,300 measures of redress, such as reinstating people in their jobs (Human Rights Watch 17 Jan. 2019, 2).
4. Post-Coup Structure of the Hizmet Movement in Turkey
According to an article published in the Politics, Religion & Ideology academic journal, the structure of the movement has been "dramatically reshaped" and "substantially weakened" since July 2016 (Watmough and Öztürk 4 May 2018, 34). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of the Alliance for Shared Values (AFSV), "a loose umbrella [organization] for several cultural organizations founded by Hizmet participants in the [US]," stated that "Hizmet has no institutional presence in Turkey today" (AFSV 20 Nov. 2019). In a 2017 report, the same organization noted that "all Hizmet-affiliated institutions were shut down" (AFSV 20 July 2017, 4). In a report published in late 2016, the same source indicates that the government-led post-coup purge had resulted in the closure of "1,284 schools and dormitories, as well as 15 universities, 1,254 associations and foundations and 35 hospitals," and notes that "Hizmet-affiliated institutions were among the hardest hit" (AFSV [Oct.] 2016, 14). The JWF President stated that
the Hizmet [m]ovement [has] lost all of its institutions in Turkey and members of the movement are struggling for survival at this time because the Turkish government confiscated the assets and personal property of businessmen who used to support people with financial assistance. Family members and relatives of the detained and arrested members of the Hizmet [m]ovement are in an extremely difficult situation, as the members abroad are trying to help them in different ways. Assisting victims in Turkey, financially or otherwise, however, is very dangerous and many individuals have been arrested and face terrorism charges … for trying to assist the people in need. Many people are therefore looking [to leave] Turkey … (JWF 25 Nov. 2019)
According to the academic article, the Turkish government has "shuttered all Gulen schools and taken over its media and business enterprises, all in all absorbing more than US$13 billion worth of [Hizmet movement] assets in Turkey" (Watmough and Öztürk 4 May 2018, 50). Similarly, an article published by Qantara.de, "a project run be Deutsche Welle" (Qantara.de n.d.), states that "[o]ver 300 companies" valued at approximately 12 billion euros were "taken over" by Turkish banking authorities (Qantara.de 27 Dec. 2017).
5. Identification of Followers or Perceived Followers
Sources noted that there is no official membership of the movement (AFSV 20 Nov. 2019; IDIGTA 20 Nov. 2019) and that involvement "is based on voluntary association [or] disassociation" (AFSV 20 Nov. 2019). According to sources, involvement in a Hizmet institution can be used to determine affiliation (AFSV 20 Nov. 2019; JWF 25 Nov. 2019); the AFSV representative explained that a main way to identify a participant in the movement would be based on membership in an organization that publicly identifies with the Hizmet movement or with Fethullah Gülen (AFSV 20 Nov. 2019). According to JWF's President, the government uses a "list of criteria" to identify members or supporters of the Hizmet movement (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). A report published by the same source indicates that, on 3 September 2016, the ["major pro-government" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019; EJN n.d.)] Turkish Daily Milliyet newspaper "published a non-exhaustive 'list of sixteen criteria' used to 'guide' the dismissals from state functions and prosecutions" (JWF Jan. 2019, 10). The list provides the following criteria:
- Investing money in Bank Asya (a legally operating bank until [it] was closed down by the government in 2016), and in other financial institutions of the so-called "parallel structure".
- Being a member of Hizmet-related trade unions or associations.
- Using encrypted communication applications such as the ByLock application.
- Donating to Kimse Yok Mu, once [the] largest Turkish aid organization, in a general consultative status at the United Nations.
- Being mentioned in reports produced by the police, MIT (The National Intelligence Organization of Turkey) and MASAK (The Financial Crimes Investigation Board of Turkey).
- Giving support to [the] Hizmet Movement on social media.
- Attending lectures and meetings of the organization "under the guise of non-governmental organizations."
- Being promoted in a short span of time or being assigned to prominent offices exceptionally.
- Transferring money to the organization under the guise of himmet (alms).
- Being subject to reliable denunciations, testimonies and confessions.
- Visiting Hizmet-linked Internet sites regularly.
- Undertaking the "back-door businesses" of Hizmet-linked corporations and protecting them.
- Accompanying the people in the judiciary and the police, who are determined to act in favor of the organization.
- Supporting Hizmet in the last years after having resided in houses of the organization.
- Being mentioned in the information given by colleagues and friends as [a] Hizmet supporter.
- Continuing to enroll their children in the organization’s schools and maintaining the organization’s newspaper and magazine subscriptions. (JWF Jan. 2019, 11)
JWF's President further cited the Daily Milliyet newspaper and stated that "'the government allegedly emphasized that the aim of preparing such a list was to discern the guilty from the innocent'" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). Amnesty International similarly indicates that the government deems individuals as affiliated to the FETÖ if they have deposited money in Bank Asya after 25 December 2013, "when it is alleged that Fethullah Gülen called on his followers to do so," if they have used the "ByLock" smartphone app, are members of trade unions, have children "enrolled in particular private schools" or subscribe to the Cihan News Agency, which is deemed to be associated with the movement (Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 9, 18). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Executive Director of the Intercultural Dialogue Institute (IDI) of the Greater Toronto Area (IDIGTA), a branch of the IDI, a non-profit organization that promotes "interfaith and intercultural cooperation, tolerance and dialogue," as well as "diversity, pluralism and multiculturalism throughout Canada," and was "founded by Turkish Canadians inspired by the teachings and example of Fethullah Gulen" (IDIGTA n.d.), wrote that
the Turkish Authorities persecute whoever has even minim[al] contact with the Hizmet movement and its institutions … . Therefore, the risk of being persecuted continues if the person was affiliated with the movement without being an actual member of the movement itself, per se. (IDIGTA 20 Nov. 2019)
The same source explained that
[i]t is also important to note that since the movement is open to anyone and openly inviting everyone to join its events, people were visiting its institutions, attending and observing its religious weekly circles, participating [in] its fast-breaking dinners, and joining its institutions’ business trips in or outside of Turkey. There are many cases of persecution, detentions, and arrests against the people who once attended such activities and were later identified by the informants of the police. In other words, if there is any tie, even the slightest one, which could implicate one’s relation with the movement, even though the person might not share the values of the movement, s/he is accepted as guilt[y] by the authorities, unless proven otherwise. (IDIGTA 20 Nov. 2019)
The 2016 report by the AFSV similarly notes that individuals are convicted "on the basis of guilt-by-association" (AFSV [Oct.] 2016, 14). The AFSV representative added that "[h]aving maintained a relationship with Hizmet-affiliated institutions after the December 2013 corruption probes in Turkey" can be considered "proof of association" (AFSV 20 Nov. 2019). Moreover, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, a professor at Stockholm University who studies Turkish culture, society, religion and politics stated that "[a]ccusations of Gülen 'membership' or sympathies, [for example] by a disgruntled co-worker, reliably lead to the accused person to be detained, lose their job, often have their bank accounts frozen, or their businesses taken over by the state" (Professor 18 Nov. 2019). Additionally, JWF's President indicated that to identify followers or perceived followers of the movement, the government issued mandatory forms to be filled out by government employees after the July 2016 coup attempt (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). These forms asked employees "to identify which newspapers and magazines they were [subscribed to]" and asked questions such as "[d]o you know anybody within our institution who is a member of terror organizations, such as FETÖ," among others, and to identify said person if the questionnaire responder answered "yes" to this question (JWF 25 Nov. 2019).
JWF's President also noted that "[a]nother criterion used to 'identify' members or sympathizers of the Hizmet movement is by identifying those who try to ease the deprivation of resources needed for the physical survival of the dismissed officials and members of their families" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). The IDIGTA Executive Director similarly indicated that "people who are taking the risk of collecting and distributing food and money to … persecuted members also face imprisonment … for aiding so-called 'terrorists'" (IDIGTA 20 Nov. 2019). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
6. Treatment by Authorities
According to the 2019 annual report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), "followers of U.S.-based cleric Gülen have faced increased persecution by the government" since the failed coup in 2016 (US 29 Apr. 2019, 5). The President of JWF stated that "[s]ince the attempted coup, Turkish government officials have declared that Hizmet [m]ovement participants do not have a right to life and will beg for death in prisons" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). Reporting on the same statements by government officials, sources quote Turkey's Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekçi as having stated the following in 2016: "'We will put [those responsible for the coup] into such holes [jails] for punishment that they won't even be able to see the sun of God as long as they breathe. They will not see the light of day. They will not hear a human voice. They will beg for death, saying 'just kill us'" (Turkish Minute 1 Aug. 2016; SCF 18 Aug. 2017). Sources also report that President Erdoğan has referred to "'cleans[ing]'" state institutions of members of the Hizmet movement (BBC 20 July 2016; SCF June 2018); referring to a speech given on 4 April 2017 and citing a Turkish-language news source, the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a non-profit "advocacy organization that promotes the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights and freedoms with a special focus on Turkey" (SCF June 2018, 3), quotes President Erdoğan as having stated the following:
"We are purging every Gülenist in the army, in the police and in state institutions. And we will continue cleansing [these organizations of] them because we will eradicate this cancer from the body of this country and state. They will not enjoy the right to life. … Our fight against them will continue until the end. We won't leave them merely wounded." (SCF June 2018, 10, ellipsis and square brackets in original)
6.1 Closure of Gülen-Associated Institutions
Turkey's Decree Law No. 667, issued on 22 July 2016 in the context of the state of emergency, provides that "[p]rivate health institutions and organizations," "[p]rivate education institutions and organizations as well as private dormitories and lodgings for students," "[f]oundations and associations and their commercial enterprises," "[f]oundation-run higher education institutions," and "[u]nions, federations and confederations" "which belong to, connect to, or contact with the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ/PDY), established posing a threat to the national security, have been found to exist, have been closed down" (Turkey 2016, Art. 2). An English version of Decree Law No. 667 is attached to this Response.
According to an October 2017 submission by the JWF to the OHCHR, after the attempted coup of 15 July 2016,
the Turkish government closed down 1,284 private schools, 15 foundation universities, 800 private dorms, 54 private hospitals, 195 media outlets, 19 trade unions, 560 foundations, and 1,125 associations. In terms of [c]hildren and [y]outh NGOs, a total of 150 NGOs that served youth and children were also closed down by the [Emergency] Decree Law #667, including 102 associations, 36 private dorms for students, 11 foundations, [and] 1 federation. (JWF Oct. 2017, 8)
In the same report, the JWF compiled a list of the children and youth NGOs shut down by Decree Law 667 (JWF Oct. 2017, 8-11). The Human Rights Joint Platform (İnsan Hakları Ortak Platformu, IHOP), "a network of 5 human rights NGOs in Turkey" (ICJ and IHOP 25 June 2018), similarly states the following:
As of 20 March 2018, 1064 private education institutions (kindergartens, elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools), 360 private training courses and study centres, 847 student dormitories, 47 private healthcare centres, 15 private foundation universities, 29 trade unions affiliated to two [c]onfederations, 1419 associations, 145 foundations and 174 media and broadcasting organizations were closed down. (IHOP 17 Apr. 2018, 43)
Scholars at Risk Network (Scholars at Risk), "an international network of institutions and individuals whose mission [is] to protect scholars and promote academic freedom" (Scholars at Risk n.d.), lists the following Turkish universities as having been ordered for closure on 23 July 2016:
- Altın Koza (İpek) University
- Bursa Orhangazi University
- Canik Başarı University
- Selahattin Eyyubi University
- Fatih University
- Melikşah University
- Mevlana University
- Şifa University
- Turgut Özal University
- Zirve University
- Kanuni University
- İzmir University
- Murat Hüdavendigar University
- Gediz University
- Süleyman Şah University. (Scholars at Risk 26 July 2016)
6.2 Denial of Services
JWF's President stated that methods used by the government against alleged members of the Hizmet movement include "the deliberate deprivation of resources … of those dismissed and which are available to the rest of the population, such as food and medical services" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). The same source added that, as of December 2018, they had "documented the death, under suspicious circumstances and in a pattern of systematic recurrence, of at least sixty-one individuals … . Many of those deaths are due to deliberate deprivation of health care services, imposed on the alleged members or sympathizers of the Hizmet movement" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). The Executive Director of IDIGTA similarly indicated that "thousands of people" are denied "medical treatment in detention centers and prisons," and that "[p]ublication of such news also frightens others [from] even seek[ing] help for urgent medical situations [due to fear of] unlawful arrests" (IDIGTA 20 Nov. 2019).
Sources indicate a "purge" of followers of the Gülen movement (US 29 Apr. 2019, 5; DW 13 July 2018) or of suspected members, described by DW as "an unprecedented purge of the state apparatus" (DW 13 July 2018). Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have similarly indicated that the purge primarily targeted perceived or suspected followers of Fethullah Gülen (Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 9; Human Rights Watch 12 Oct. 2017, 10).
According to the USCIRF report, the purge has resulted "in the dismissal, detainment, and arrest of tens of thousands of individuals" (US 29 Apr. 2019, 5). Turkey Purge, a group of young journalists who tracks the "academics, military officers, police officers, teachers, government officials and bureaucrats who have been dismissed from their jobs as part of the ongoing purge," based on the government decrees 667 to 694 [which contain annexes of lists of the dismissals and closures] and news sources (Turkey Purge n.d.), provides the following statistics: 150,348 individuals dismissed; 500,650 investigated; 96,885 arrested; 6,021 "academics lost jobs"; 4,463 judges and prosecutors dismissed; 319 journalists arrested (Turkey Purge 4 Mar. 2019). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Sources indicate that the dismissals have affected a wide range of professionals, including healthcare professionals, teachers, academics (AFSV 20 July 2017, 4; Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 4), police officers, members of the armed forces, and "people working at all levels of the central and local government" (Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 4). The OHCHR reports that the government used emergency decrees to "[pursue] the pattern of dismissals of public servants" (UN Mar. 2018, para. 39). Amnesty International reports that there is a lack of "specific evidence" presented to "justif[y] … many of the dismissals" of public sector employees (Amnesty International 22 May 2017, 9). In a 2017 report, Amnesty International indicates that public sector employees and their supporters believe the reasons for their dismissal include their "actual or perceived opposition to the ruling [party's] government, union activism, and local score-settling" (Amnesty International 22 May 2017, 9). According to another report by the same source, the "arbitrary dismissals have had a devastating impact on those who lost their jobs and their families" (Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 4). Sources indicate that the dismissals have barred individuals from accessing housing, health care services (UN Mar. 2018, para. 60; Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 4), and other employment in their professions, "leaving them and their families without livelihood opportunities" (Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 4). In addition, the IDIGTA Executive Director indicated that it is "almost impossible" for those dismissed to find employment in either the public or private sector, explaining that those dismissed are prevented from public sector employment due to the government's "two special indicator codes in the official E-State portal" that indicates dismissals and "brand[s] people" on their "official employment records" (IDIGTA 20 Nov. 2019). The source added that private companies may employ followers [or perceived followers] of the Hizmet movement, but risk being "oppressed and closed or being labeled as a supporter of a terrorist organization by the [g]overnment" (IDIGTA 20 Nov. 2019). According to the JWF President, "[d]ismissed public sector workers are barred by decree from employment in private security companies, effectively barring, among other[s], dismissed police and military officials from being employed in similar work or industries in the private sector" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). Similarly, the OHCHR reports that sanctions faced by individuals dismissed by decree include "a life-long ban from working in the public sector and in private security companies" (UN Mar. 2018, para. 68).
6.4 Cancellation of Passports, Restrictions Abroad and Deportations
The OHCHR and Amnesty International additionally indicate that the dismissals include the cancellation of passports (UN Mar. 2018, para. 68; Amnesty International 22 May 2017, 15), thus preventing people from leaving the country (UN Mar. 2018, para. 68). According to the JWF President, Decree No. 667 (attached to this Response) provided "for the cancellation of passports of all those subjected to administrative acts, criminal investigation and prosecution," adding that the cancellation of passports affected both people in Turkey and abroad (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). Amnesty International specifies that the "[p]assport cancellations apply to both the green passports available to senior public sector employees in place of an ordinary passport and to ordinary passports" (Amnesty International 22 May 2017, 15). The JWF President indicated that, through Decree Law No. 680, the Turkish government has revoked "the citizenship of individuals abroad, who do not respond to judicial summons issued by courts or prosecutors within 90 days" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). The same source noted that, on the basis of the same decree, the government published a "'return home'" notice twice; "on June 5, 2017 concerning 130 individuals and on September 10, 2017 concerning 99 individuals - who are currently abroad" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). According to the same source, these measures reportedly facilitate the "deportation, expulsion, extradition or otherwise illegal transfer to Turkey" of the targeted individuals (JWF 25 Nov. 2019).
Human Rights Watch also reports that the Turkish government seeks the extradition of alleged Gulen supporters abroad (Human Rights Watch 17 Jan. 2019). Sources indicate that some countries have complied with the Turkish government's call for extraditions (Reuters 29 May 2019; Balkan Insight 29 Oct. 2019). News website Balkan Insight reports on an extradition decision made in Montenegro in October 2019 to return a "Gulenist movement member" to Turkey, and notes other "operations to send back Gulenist suspects from Kosovo and Moldova" (Balkan Insight 29 Oct. 2019). Reuters further reports on similar decisions being made by the governments of Kosovo, Pakistan and Malaysia (Reuters 29 May 2019). A February 2018 article published by Morocco World News (MWN), a news website with offices in New York and Rabat (MWN n.d.), citing an article by the American international relations magazine Foreign Affairs, similarly lists Pakistan and Malaysia among "countries alleged to have been involved in arresting or deporting suspected members of the Gulen movement," along with Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Turkmenistan (MWN 1 Feb. 2018). Further information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
JWF's President noted that from May to August 2017, there were "at least 695 cases (in 23 countries) where Turkish consulates have declined to provide consular services to Turkish citizens – including … 108 cases of denial of passports and nationality IDs for newborns in 13 countries" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). The SCF similarly indicates having received reports of a "campaign of denial of consular services to Turkish nationals," stating that "practices range from the seizure of passports and denial of passport renewals to not processing marriage and birth certificates and refusal of notary and document validation requests" (SCF 2 Mar. 2017). The same source further states that members of the Hizmet movement are "[a]mong the most targeted" (SFC 2 Mar. 2017). Further and corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
6.5 Arrests and Detention
Human Rights Watch indicates that, regarding trials of "military personnel and others" for involvement in the July 2016 attempted coup, "[a]s of June  2,177 defendants were convicted and 1,552 acquitted at first instance, according to the Ministry of Justice" (Human Rights Watch 17 Jan. 2019). IHOP indicates that between 17 October 2016 and 20 March 2018, 79,301 people were detained on terrorism-related offences (IHOP 17 Apr. 2018, 10). According to the same source, 47,617 of those individuals were taken into police custody on cases related to FETÖ/PDY (IHOP 17 Apr. 2018, 10). A report by IHOP and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), which is "[c]omposed of 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world" and which "promotes and protects human rights," adds that "[t]he profiles of those arrested for anti-terrorism offences include members of the army, judges and prosecutors, public servants, Members of Parliament, journalists, human rights defenders, students and lawyers" (ICJ and IHOP 25 June 2018, para. 7). The JWF President similarly indicated that the "convicted individuals during the past three years have been overwhelmingly academics, teachers, journalists, housewives, trade unionists, judges, prosecutors, police officers, military personnel and other professionals" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019).
News sources from February 2019 indicate that the Turkish government has continued to detain and arrest suspected Hizmet sympathizers (Al Jazeera 19 Feb. 2019; The Guardian 12 Feb. 2019). The Guardian reports that in February 2019, the government "issued arrest warrants for a further 1,112 people with suspected connections to the outlawed Gülenist movement" (The Guardian 12 Feb. 2019). Similarly, Reuters indicates that the ordering of the arrest of 1,112 people is one of the government's "largest operations against alleged supporters of" Gülen (Reuters 12 Feb. 2019). Al Jazeera states that "[m]ore than 760 people were detained … in operations across 76 provinces of Turkey's 81 provinces, although 122 suspects were later freed under judicial supervision" (Al Jazeera 19 Feb. 2019).
The Professor at Stockholm University indicated that "[e]vidence is not necessary to keep someone in prison for months or years" and that judges do not release suspects due to fear of being accused of being Gülenist supporters themselves (Professor 18 Nov. 2019). The JWF President similarly noted that "the perils of false or illegitimate complaints are compounded by the state of Turkey's judicial system. Prosecutors and judges are terrified to drop cases for fear of themselves being branded terrorists" (JWF 25 Nov. 2019). Further information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
The OHCHR reports that detainees have faced "different forms of torture and ill-treatment" by "the police, gendarmerie, military police and security forces" (UN Mar. 2018, para. 77, 79). The same source further indicates that those in custody have been subjected to "severe beatings, threats of sexual assault and actual sexual assault, electric shocks and waterboarding" (UN Mar. 2018, para. 77). In addition, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, following a mission to Turkey in late 2016, adds that detainees experienced "severe beatings, punches and kicking, blows with objects, falaqa [foot beating], threats and verbal abuse, being forced to strip naked, rape with objects and other sexual violence or threats thereof, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and extended blindfolding and/or handcuffing for several days" (UN 18 Dec. 2017, para. 26). Human Rights Watch similarly indicates, in a 2017 report, "that torture and ill-treatment in police custody in Turkey has become a widespread problem" (Human Rights Watch 12 Oct. 2017, 1).
6.6 Forced Disappearances
Human Rights Watch, in its 2017 report, indicates "cases of abductions which likely amount to enforced disappearances" by state authorities, "the majority of them in Ankara" (Human Rights Watch 12 Oct. 2017, 33). According to the SCF, abductions or kidnappings serve "as part of the persecution launched by Turkish President Erdoğan and his government, primarily against participants of … the Gülen movement" (SCF June 2017, 4). On its website, the same source has published the names of 28 missing individuals based on "suspected involvement" with the Hizmet movement by Turkey's security services (SCF 9 Jan. 2019). Further information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
7. Treatment by Society
Sources report that the names of those dismissed were made public through the government's emergency decrees (Amnesty International 22 May 2017, 9; UN Mar. 2018, para. 61), and on the Internet, forming "part of a person's record, visible to state institutions and the public at large[,] [leading] to additional pressures on [dismissed individuals] and their families" (Amnesty International 22 May 2017, 15). In a 2018 report, Amnesty International quotes a dismissed school teacher who stated the following:
"People look at you differently because of the dismissals. People are reluctant to even say hello to you. They go to great lengths to avoid even seeing you. Your neighbours look at you differently. They pretend not to see you when they walk down the street. While you do not know exactly what you have been accused of, you are labelled as a 'terrorist' and left completely isolated, even from those closest to you. …" (Amnesty International 25 Oct. 2018, 5)
The Professor at Stockholm University indicated that individuals affected by the purge "become pariahs in their own communities (and often families) because people are afraid of associating with them because they themselves might be charged for doing so" (Professor 18 Nov. 2019). Similarly, the AFSV representative noted that "Hizmet supporters are treated with suspicion, disdain and sometimes hate" and are "treated like untouchables by both the government and society" (AFSV 20 Nov. 2019).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
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Al Jazeera. 19 February 2019. "Turkey Orders Detention of 300 People over Alleged Gulen Links." [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019]
Al Jazeera. 25 July 2018. "Turkey Parliament Approves New Anti-Terror Law." [Accessed 19 Nov. 2019]
Alliance for Shared Values (AFSV). 20 November 2019. Correspondence from a representative to the Research Directorate.
Alliance for Shared Values (AFSV). 20 July 2017. What Really Happened in Turkey on July 15, 2016? An Alternative to the Turkish Government Narrative. [Accessed 18 Nov. 2019]
Alliance for Shared Values (AFSV). [October] 2016. The Failed Military Coup in Turkey & the Mass Purges: A Civil Society Perspective. [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019]
Amnesty International. 25 October 2018. Purged Beyond Return? No Remedy For Turkey's Dismissed Public Sector Workers. (EUR 44/9210/2018) [Accessed 20 Nov. 2019]
Amnesty International. 22 May 2017. No End in Sight: Purged Public Sector Workers Denied a Future in Turkey. (EUR 44/6272/2017) [Accessed 18 Nov. 2019]
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The Atlantic. 18 July 2016. Krishnadev Calamur. "The Turkish President's Arch-Nemesis: A Reading List on Fethullah Gulen, the Cleric Accused of Helping Orchestrate Friday's Coup Attempt." [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019]
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International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and İnsan Hakları Ortak Platformu (IHOP). 25 June 2018. Joint Submission of the International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights Joint Platform in View of the UN Committee Against Torture’s Adoption of a List of Issues to Be Transmitted to the Republic of Turkey Prior to the Submission of Its Fifth Periodic Report Under Article 19 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. [Accessed 19 Nov. 2019]
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Professor, Stockholm University. 18 November 2019. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.
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Senior Fellow, Silk Road Studies Program, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. 13 September 2016. Telephone interview with the Research Directorate.
Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF). 9 January 2019. "Enforced Disappearances in Turkey." [Accessed 19 Nov. 2019]
Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF). June 2018. Erdoğan's Long Arm: The Case of Sweden. [Accessed 23 Dec. 2019]
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Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF). 2 March 2017. "Turkish Gov't Systematically Denies Consular Services to Critics Abroad." [Accessed 27 Nov. 2019]
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Turkey Purge. 4 March 2019. "Turkey's Post-Coup Crackdown." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2019]
Turkey Purge. N.d. "Who We Are." [Accessed 18 Nov. 2019]
Turkish Minute. 1 August 2016. "Economy Minister Says Gov't Will Make Coup Plotters Beg for Death." [Accessed 23 Dec. 2019]
United Nations (UN). March 2018. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Report on the Impact of the State of Emergency on Human Rights in Turkey, Including an Update on the South-East, January-December 2017. [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019]
United Nations (UN). 18 December 2017. Human Rights Council. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on His Mission to Turkey. (A/HRC/37/50/Add.1) [Accessed 19 Nov. 2019]
United States (US). 29 April 2019. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). "Turkey (Tier 2)." Annual Report 2019. [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019]
Watmough, Simon P. and Ahmet Erdi Öztürk. 4 May 2018. "From 'Diaspora by Design' to Transnational Political Exile: The Gülen Movement in Transition." Politics, Religion and Ideology. Vol. 19, No. 1. [Accessed 12 Nov. 2019]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Human Rights Foundation of Turkey; Intercultural Dialogue Institute, Ottawa; McGill University – Institute of Islamic Studies.
Internet sites, including: Associated Press; Australia – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Brookings Institution; Christian Solidarity Worldwide; ecoi.net; EU – European Asylum Support Office; Factiva; Johns Hopkins University – Center for Civil Society Studies; Middle East Online; The New York Times; Political Handbook of the World; Pulitzer Center.
Turkey. 2016. Decree with Force of Law No. 667 - 22 July 2016: Decree on Measures to Be Taken Under State of Emergency. [Accessed 23 Dec. 2019]