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Turkey Uses Post-Coup Emergency Decree to Purge Mayors and Teachers
The Turkish government said on Friday that it was preparing to take over at least 28 municipal administrations nationwide, ousting elected mayors as part of an intensified crackdown against Kurdish insurgents.
The government is accusing the mayors of supporting and funding militants from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or P.K.K., an outlawed group that has been engaged in a violent autonomy struggle for more than 40 years.
"The administration of 28 municipalities will no longer be in the hands of terrorists," Suleyman Soylu, the interior minister, said in a televised speech.
The announcement came a day after the government dismissed more than 11,000 teachers suspected of activities in support of the P.K.K. and affiliated organizations, the semiofficial Anadolu Agency reported.
The government's actions were carried out under powers granted by a state of emergency after the failed military coup on July 15 aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Since then, the government has conducted a widespread purge of those suspected of having links to Mr. Erdogan's former ally, Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania who is accused of masterminding the coup attempt. Mr. Gulen has repeatedly denied involvement.
More than 40,000 people have been arrested or detained since the night of the failed coup, and tens of thousands of people have been purged from the judiciary, military and security forces, as well as a range of professions.
While Turkey's opposition figures have supported the purges against Mr. Gulen's support network, they have accused Mr. Erdogan of misusing the coup attempt, which left more than 200 people dead, as a mandate to neutralize his adversaries and gain more power.
The purges of teachers and civil servants with suspected links to the P.K.K. can be done without parliamentary approval under the state of emergency.
"We have run and are currently running the largest operations against the P.K.K. terrorist organization in its history, both within and across our borders," Mr. Erdogan said on Thursday.
Turkey launched a military offensive in northern Syria two weeks ago, capturing a key border town from the Islamic State in an operation also aimed at preventing Syrian Kurdish militias from gaining more territory in the region, which the Turks deem a threat to national security because of Syrian Kurdish links to the P.K.K.
"Turkey will continue its offensive in northern Syria, where Kurdish militants have gained a stronghold, having fended off rebel forces and the Islamic State," Mr. Erdogan said.
The new wave of anti-P.K.K. actions came amid a flurry of diplomacy in Ankara, where European officials met with Turkish leaders in an effort to save a deal that has curbed the flow of illicit immigration to Europe for the past year.
The Turkish government agreed to that deal in exchange for European Union pledges of visa-free travel for Turks into Europe. But the deal has been on the verge of collapse in recent weeks because of Turkey's unwillingness to amend its terrorism laws to meet the European Union's visa-free criteria.
Turkish police officers detained dozens of teachers protesting the purges on Friday in the country's predominantly Kurdish southeast. Television footage showed several hundred protesters dispersed by water cannons and tear gas as they chanted, "Shoulder to shoulder against fascism."
Violence has surged in Turkey's southeast this year after the breakdown of a cease-fire between Kurdish insurgents and the Turkish military.
[Source: By Ceylan Yeginsu, The Opinion Pages, International New York Times, Istanbul, 09Sep16]
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