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Turkish purge

TURKEY`S massive post-coup purge shows no signs of abating.

In fact, the targets of President Erdogan`s wrath only seem to be increasing. On Tuesday, nearly 13,000 police officers were suspended for alleged links to Mr Erdogan`s arch-nemesis, US based cleric Fethullah Gulen, while a Kurdish TV station was shut down. Moreover, the three-month state of emergency declared in Turkey af ter the failed July putsch has been extended for a further three months. It is not just the police or the military that are being combed by the AKP-led government for signs of `traitors`; nearly all organs of state have been targeted. The judiciary, civil service and education department have been affected by the purge, while even the private sector is under surveillance. Around 32,000 people have been arrested for suspected links to Mr Gulen`s movement dubbed by the state as the `Fethullah Terror Organisation`while 70,000 individuals have been investigated. Several of Mr Gulen`s family members have also been taken into custody. The media has not been spared either over 20 radio and TV stations have been closed down by the state. These include outlets broadcasting in Kurdish, stations with left-leaning orientations, as well as channels representing the minority Alevi religious community.

While the Turkish state has every right to investigate and punish those involved in the failed coup attempt, this exercise should not be used as an excuse by Mr Erdogan and his allies to wipe out dissent.

Simply branding all supporters and sympathisers of Mr Gulen, or those of Kurdish groups, as `terrorists` and `traitors` is unacceptable as it violates all democratic norms. Modern Turkey had seemingly come a long way from its recent troubled past when a strident military would often step in to crush democratic opposition and send elected governments home in order to protect what it termed as the `national interest`. Unfortunately, many of the current Turkish administration`s moves bear an eerie resemblance to the iron-fisted policies the country`s military dictators used to enforce. While the populist Erdogan government has indeed managed to check the power of the generals, it has also unleashed a `democratic authoritarianism` of its own. As it is, Turkey is situated in a geopolitically sensitive neighbourhood, with a brutal civil war raging next door in Syria. In the interests of domestic stability and continuation of the democratic process, the AKP government should halt the purge and refrain from further targeting critics and opponents of the administration.

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