The two-year-old state of emergency imposed after Turkey’s failed 2016 coup ended at midnight on July 18 but opponents of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who has embarked on a newly constituted executive presidency that some critics say essentially amounts to one-man-rule—say he remains empowered to stifle dissent.
On July 18, the anti-Erdogan news outlet Ahval reported that the Turkish leader had asked prosecutors to start legal proceedings against Republican People’s Party (CHP) head Kemal Kilicdaroglu and 72 of his parliamentary deputies on charges of insulting the president. The politicians allegedly shared a cartoon of Erdogan on social media that was first held up by students of the Middle East Technical University (METU) at a recent protest against the strongman president. The crime of insulting the president in the course of his duties carries a jail term of between one and three years in Turkey.
The United Nations human rights office has described Turkish citizens’ experience of the prolonged emergency rule as “chilling”. Across its duration, more than 150,000 civil servants, including police and army officers, were purged and 77,000 people suspected of links to the attempted coup were detained. Turkey, meanwhile, became the world’s most prolific jailer of journalists.
Turkey’s main business lobby, TUSIAD, several times pushed for the ending of the emergency regime, saying foreign investors were deterred by the repeated extension of its three-month terms.
Although ahead of his election triumph last month Erdogan pledged to lift the state of emergency if re-elected, he added that the government would introduce new counter-terrorism legislation.
“Although the government is trying to disguise the new laws as an end to the state of emergency, what’s really going on is that the state of emergency is being made permanent,” Ayhan Bilgen, spokesman for the pro-Kurdish HDP party, told Reuters.
New anti-terrorism laws, which the government says will prevent “an interruption in the fight against terrorism”, will be discussed in parliament on July 19.
The draft legislation gives local governors the authority to limit access for specific people to parts of their province if they suspect the person will disrupt public order. It also allows officials to pursue mass dismissals of civil servants and hold suspects in custody for up to 12 days and widens the scope for banning demonstrations.
Authorities insist the crackdown following the failed 2016 coup, blamed on the network of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen which the government refers to as FETO, was crucial to preserving Turkey’s security. Gulen protests his innocence, but officials claim his network is still trying to destabilise the Erdogan administration and say that the president’s new powers and the proposed legislation are also necessary to help confront threats spilling over from conflicts in neighbouring Syria and Iraq as well as an insurgency by Kurdish militants in the southeast.
“Ending the state of emergency should not be deemed as ending our fight against terror,” Justice Minister Abulhamit Gul said this week. “The most persistent and determined fight against all kinds of terrorism, especially the FETO, will continue till the end.”