An Overview of the post-Coup Attempt Measures in Turkey

 An Overview of the post-Coup Attempt Measures in Turkey

Following the coup attempt on July 15, during which 208 people were killed and more than 1400 were injured across Istanbul and Ankara[1], the Turkish Government declared a State of Emergency for an initial period of three months on July 20.[2] The following day the Turkish authorities notified the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, respectively, of Turkey’s derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights under the Convention’s Article 15 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under the Covenant’s Article 4.[3] The state of emergency has been extended twice, first in October for three months, then in January for further three months.

What followed the declaration of the State of Emergency have been a massive purge of civil servants through the enactment of 20 emergency decree-laws and the detention of persons from various backgrounds, including security forces, politicians, civil servants, academics, journalists, and members of the judiciary. Along with purged civil servants, civil actors such as members of civil society organisations and businessmen were also taken into custody in various cities in Turkey. Based on the emergency decree-laws, over 130,000 civil servants have been dismissed from duty[4], some 18,500[5] including 9,611 teachers, 3,193 police officers, and 276 judges later have been reinstated to their positions. Some 120 media outlets and 1,500 civil society organisations have been shut down. The major criticism against the decree-laws can be pointed out as

“The wording of the decree is vague and open-ended, permitting the firing of any public official conveniently alleged to be ‘in contact’ with members of ‘terrorist organizations’ but with no need for an investigation to offer any evidence in support of it… The decree can be used to target any opponent – perceived or real – beyond those in the Gülen movement”[6]

Table 1. Chronology of Released Emergency Decree-Laws


The decree-laws target individuals according to one’s membership of or connection to either terror organisations or structures, organisations or groups that have been deemed by the National Security Council to operate against the national security of the country. The 20 decree-laws that have been issued since the beginning of the state of emergency aimed to take as many precautions as possible, according to the state authorities, to prevent and stop acts that would jeopardise the current national security condition.

What can be pointed out as a positive development in the past two months, compared to the first three months of the state of emergency, is that more than 18,000 people have been reinstated to their duties. However, it is believed that the level of insecurity and the fear of losing one’s job increase every single day.

Those who have been targeted by the post-coup emergency decree-laws, laws, administrative decisions and criminal investigations, as a rule, have a right to challenge these acts before domestic courts, albeit with certain restrictive legal implications of the State of Emergency. To this day, no judicial pronouncement has been made on any of the post-coup legal developments.

On October 12, the Constitutional Court rejected two requests to annul certain provisions of Emergency Decree-Laws No 668 and No 669 stating that it does not have a constitutional authority to review the constitutionality of emergency decree-laws.[7] Thus, it has not considered whether the decree-laws conform to the constitutional restrictions regarding the temporal, spatial, and substantive scope of decree-laws. The Court recently rejected two constitutional complaints[8] made by two dismissed judges on the grounds that they should first seek to overturn the dismissals at the Council of State, which is a newly established procedure solely for the dismissed judges and prosecutors by Decree-Law 685. The Council of State had also overturned the cases brought by other public officials challenging the emergency decree-laws on jurisdictional grounds and referred them to the first instance administrative courts, which have also rejected cases against dismissals.[9] Individuals who allege violations of their rights have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights as well. Yet, the Court dismissed the complaints for failure to exhaust the domestic remedies.[10]

On January 23, Decree-Law No 685 established the State of Emergency Acts Review Commission, in order to review the applications of the officials dismissed and organisations shut down by decree-laws. The Constitutional Court, the Ombudsman, and the European Court of Human Rights now refer applications to this commission. The government, however, still have not appointed the members of the commission, which was due to start working by February 22 the latest according to the Decree-Law.

Below is a detailed account of the post-coup developments in certain major sectors of the Turkish state and society.

Military officials

As military personnel carried out the coup attempt, it is not surprising that there have been an extensive purge and major institutional reforms to the Turkish military. Decree-law No. 668, published on July 27, dismissed 1,684 military officials on the grounds that they had a connection to the so-called FETÖ (Fethullahçı Terör Örgütü) (Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation). Four days later, Decree-law No. 669 dismissed further 1,389 military officials and introduced numerous drastic reforms to the structure of the military. The decree-law subordinated the army, navy and the air force to the Ministry of National Defence, shut down military schools and academies and established the National Defence University, transferred the military hospitals to the Ministry of Health. It also changed the composition of the Supreme Military Council (Yüksek Askeri Şura) (YAŞ), which determines the military agenda and oversees the promotion and dismissals in the military, to include more civil members and significantly less military officials. Subsequent Decree-laws No. 670, 672, 677, 679 and 686 dismissed further 136, 325, 338, 785 and 896 military officials respectively. In total, 5,553 people have been dismissed from the military by way of decree-laws. Moreover, 16,423 cadets have been discharged from their schools.[11]

Despite its declared aim of restoring faith in the Turkish army and strengthening it by cleansing it from ‘infidels’[12], the far-reaching crackdown on the army, coupled with the media reports on the treatment of the detained soldiers[13] and the coupist soldiers who have sought refuge in other states, may have weakened both its reputation and strength.

Political Arena and Politicians

The attention of the decree-laws following the July 15 coup attempt has also been directed towards current and former politicians. Some politicians, taking active/passive roles in various positions, mostly within local governments, have been taken under custody with the suspicion of having direct ties with the Gülen movement, deemed as a terrorist organisation by the state, or to the PKK, accepted as a terrorist organisation by the state. Some of the detentions taking place in different cities of Turkey have turned into arrests, whereas some politicians were released. During the state of emergency, in the past 8 months, 13 MPs of HDP (a pro-Kurdish political party and the 3rd largest party of the Parliament with 59 seats) were arrested, among which are also the co-leaders of HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. Yüksekdağ’s deputyship has been cancelled on February 21st and Demirtaş has recently been sentenced to 5 months of jail time Doğubeyazıt Penal Court of First Instance. Following the terrorist attack on December 10 in Beşiktaş district in Istanbul, 568 people were taken under custody among whom were also municipal or provincial level HDP and DBP executives.[14]

The state of emergency has not only affected individuals, but political institutions- mainly local municipalities-have also been targeted.

As an outcome of the decree-law released on September 1, a legal implementation had been put into practice allowing the ruling system to assign trustees (kayyım-kayyum) to local governments.[15] Thus, with the decree-law 674, the central government was given the power to assign trustees to local governments when there is a suspicion for an alleged tie to “terrorist organizations”. According to the this practice, in the cases where the mayor or the vice mayor are suspended from their duties because of their association to a terrorist organisation or because of being an accessory to a terrorist organisation, Ministry of Interior Affairs (in metropolitan and provincial municipalities) or the governor (in other municipalities) will be assigning newcomers (a responsible for the trustee local government)[16]. These new assignments to local governments give the power to the new trustees the unilateral cancellation of any contracts that were signed under the previous rule of local governance, which in return creates a much more complicated outcome in terms of the situation of sub-contractors.[17]

Starting from September 2016, by the end of February there were 80 local municipalities run were assigned new trustees with their alleged ties to terrorist organizations. 3 of these municipalities belong to Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) (AKP), 1 to Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi) (MHP) and 76 to Democratic Regions Party (Demokratik Bölgeler Partisi) (DBP).[18] Along with these new municipal assignments, 2,603 people were arrested following operations directed at PKK. [19]

One of the most criticised aspects of these decree-laws has been the fact that the democratically elected local governments became deactivated with the bringing-in of the trustees to the local governments. Along with the trustee appointed local governments, private businesses, universities and schools became subject to this practice as well: those suspected to have links to Gülen movement were appointed with new trustees following the coup attempt. This new practice is therefore criticised to be at variance with democracy, since “it overtly interferes” with the outcomes of democratic processes.[20]

Members of the judiciary

In less than 24 hours after the coup attempt, arrest warrants were issued for 2,745 judges and prosecutors, including two members of the Constitutional Court and many members of the other supreme courts.[21] The number of those purged and the scope of the crackdown gradually increased, ultimately leading to harsher sanctions such as dismissal from office and removal of all benefits. On July 16, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (Hakimler ve Savcılar Yüksek Kurulu) (HSYK) suspended 2,204 judges and prosecutors, including five of its own members.[22] Most of these members of the judiciary, followed by hundreds more, have been detained immediately after the coup and they remain arrested, awaiting trial. Following the declaration of the state of emergency, Article 3 of Decree-Law 667 authorised the HSYK to dismiss judges and prosecutors, and the Constitutional Court, the Council of State Presidential Council, and the Court of Cassation Presidential Council to dismiss the members in these courts who are allegedly linked to terrorist organisations.

Meanwhile, President Erdogan promulgated on July 23 Law No. 6723 that dismissed all members of the Council of State and the Court of Cassation, to be replaced by President himself and the HSYK. The request for the annulment of the Law brought before the Constitutional Court by the CHP has been rejected on procedural grounds.[23]

In a unanimous decision on August 4, the Constitutional Court dismissed two of its members based upon “the social network information and the common impression of the members of the Court” that the two members had links to the Gülenist movement.[24] The HSYK followed suit with four decisions on August 24, August 31, October 4, and November 15, in which it dismissed 2,847, 543, 66, and 203 judges and prosecutors respectively. The total number is 3,659. Among the dismissed, 78 judges and prosecutors have been reinstated to their duties by a December 8 decision of the HSYK.[25] On November 29, the requests of the rest of the dismissed judges and prosecutors for renewed examination of their dismissals have been summarily rejected by the HSYK in a single 41-page long decision that lacks an individual-by-individual examination.[26]  

It should be noted that all assets of the dismissed judges and prosecutors have been frozen, they are left with no income, no rights to pension, no right to future public employment, and their families had to evict the assigned housing within 15 days of their dismissal.

The European Association of Judges and the International Association of Judges, along with many national unions of judges, bars, judiciaries and international organisations, have criticised the post-coup crackdown on the Turkish judiciary.[27] Moreover, four European judges associations established the Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey in the face of “the extraordinary situation of violation of the independence of the judiciary in Turkey” and expressed their concerns regarding the violations of the independence of the judiciary, the security of tenure of office, and the lack of transparency and fair procedures in relation to the dismissal of judges and prosecutors.[28] On December 8, the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary unanimously decided to suspend the Turkish High Council for Judges and Prosecutors stating that the HSYK “is no longer an institution which is independent of the executive and legislature ensuring the final responsibility for the support of the judiciary in the independent delivery of justice”.[29]

Press and Journalists

Media outlets and journalists became subject to Decree-laws’ operationalization throughout this state of emergency period. Current numbers indicate that starting from July 20, 179 media institutions were shut down, 216 journalists were taken under custody and 156 are now held in jail. Among 178 media outlets that were shut down by decree-laws and by the decision of Radio and Television Supreme Council (Radyo ve televizyon Yüksek Kurulu) (RTÜK) , 20 of them were reinstated and the current number of closed media institutions is now 159.[30]

Numerically, during the state of emergency, 34 radios, 62 newspapers, 5 news agencies, 30 TV channels, 19 magazines and 29 publishing houses have been shut down.[31] Notably, the decree-laws shut down 2 significant Kurdish news agencies (Dicle News Agency and Jin News Agency) and 2 major Kurdish newspapers Özgür Gündem and Azadiya Welat.

Table 2. Closure of Media outlets by Decree-laws


With decree-laws No 668, 675 and 677; more than 2,500 people working in this sector were left unemployed.[32] This number increased in more with the following decree-laws: the closure of 158 media instruments in total the number of unemployment increased dramatically and reached almost 10,000.[33]

In addition to the arrest decisions and closures, 780 press cards[34] and 49 passports have been revoked. The arrest of journalists (executives, columnists and cartoonists) from pro-secular Cumhuriyet Newspaper was vehemently criticised by international media as well.[35] Arrested columnists, cartoonists and executives received huge amount of support from the public, and the members of the international press arena voiced their concerns following the clampdown on one of the rare opposition newspapers in Turkey over press freedom. With the arrest of multiple journalists along with Ahmet Şık, Turkey has now become the country that has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.[36]

RT_post-coup_attempt_3 (1)

Academics and school system

The primary crackdown took place right after the coup with the closure of 15 universities[37], which resulted in their seizure and in the termination of their academics’ employment statuses. The announcement of the Turkish Higher Education Council (Yüksek Öğretim Kurumu) signaled the administrative case against the 6,792 academics and administrative personnel from which 5,342 were removed from the office.[38] In YÖK’s declaration of July 19, 1,577 deans were forced to resign from their positions (1,176 of them from state universities and 401 from private universities) and consequently all of them resigned from their positions[39]. The indicated reason for the shutting down of 15 universities was their alleged links to the Gülen movement. The outcome has affected more than 60,000 university students, almost one third of whom chose either not to continue their studies at another university or to make a lateral transfer.[40]. Another critical development has been brought by the Decree-law No 676 announced on October 29: The rule for the election of rectors of universities has been changed: The selection of candidates will be evaluated and approved by the President.[41]

There have been several important criticisms indicating that these actions targeting academics at numerous positions and universities are not only limited to sweeping those linked with the Gülen movement but also that these actions are portrayals of an oppressive system that try to silence and erase all those who take a critical side to the government. With 5 decree-laws released throughout the State of Emergency that has been operating for the past 8 months, 4,811 academicians were discharged from 112 different universities. Only 58 of them were reinstated to their position. [42]

Table 3. Number of academicians discharged from duty in the past 8 months


This oppression is further embodied in the lately released decree-law on February 7th 2017 , by which in total of 330 academicians, among which 184 were Peace Petition signatories, have been removed from their positions without being supported with any connecting evidence to the coup attempt of July 15.

The situation of Peace Petition signatories is worrisome, when analyzed numerically, with the decree released on

  • September 1st (Decree-law no: 672): 43,
  • October 29 (Decree-law No 675): 24
  • November 22 (Decree-law No 677): 15
  • January 6 (Decree-law No 679): 43
  • February 7 (Decree-law No 686): 184 Peace Petition signatories were removed from public servant duty[43].

Along with the higher education system, preschool, primary and secondary education members have also been affected by all the 20 decree-laws released during these past 8 months. According to Minister of Education, approximately 33,000 teachers have been discharged from duty and 7,210 have been lashed off from employment for further investigation. Nearly 4,000 of those discharged from duty are arrested and almost another 4,000 were released on the condition of judicial control.[44] İstanbul (4,009), Ankara (1,984), Bursa (1,192), Konya (1,146) and Izmir (1,050) hold the highest number of teachers discharged from duty.[45]

The number of schools that have been closed is listed to be more than 2 thousand (among which most of them are private student dormitories). 401 private high schools, 304 private middle schools, 270 private primary schools, 84 pre-school, 845 private student dormitories along with 351 private courses were shut down with different decree-laws released in the past 8 months.[46]

Civil servants

There has also been a massive crackdown on public officials on a scale and in a manner unprecedented. Immediately after July 15, thousands of public officials were suspended and many detained and arrested mostly in provincial investigations in almost every department of the government. Until early September, the purge amounted to the dismissal of some public officials who did not have the status and thus the security of civil service (devlet memuru), and only the suspension of civil servants. However, on September 1, bypassing the security of civil service, Decree-Law No. 672 dismissed 50,875 civil servants, of which 28,163 were teachers at the Ministry of National Education. Attachments to the decree-law enlisted all 50,785 dismissed, among which there are also 2,346 academics, 2,018 Ministry of Health officials, 1,519 Directorate of Religious Affairs officials, 7,669 officials from the police forces, and 323 officials from the gendarmerie.

Two other waves of massive purge came with Decree-laws No. 675 and 677, which altogether dismissed 25,784 public officials. Among the dismissed are 403 officials from the gendarmerie, 8,175 officials from the National Directorate of Security, 2,534 Ministry of Justice officials, 2,338 Ministry of Education officials, 3,526 Ministry of Health officials, 2,696 Ministry of Interior Affairs officials, and 2,209 academics.

In the first three months of 2017, Decree-Laws Nos 679, 683 and 686 dismissed further 11,550 public officials, notably including 2,598 Ministry of Education officials, 3,104 police officers, 1,024 Ministry of Health officials and 961 academics.

The Decree-laws state that the officials listed in lists attached to them are either members of terrorist groups or structures that the National Security Council decided carries out activities against “the national security of the State”, or affiliated to, connected to, or in contact with them. The question how the executive reached this conclusion remains. Needless to say, these decree-laws preceded any criminal investigation or conviction.

Business world and private sector

Decree-laws have affected the business world too. Actions towards the private sector, especially towards the acknowledged representatives of the business world started at the end of July, few days later the coup attempt of July 15. A holding owner, Şükrü Boydak, from Kayseri, has been the first name pronounced in the media.[47] Detentions and arrests of big size holding owners, of various businesspeople from different cities in Turkey have been taking place since then. Moreover, companies and firms of various sizes have also become subject of purges: seizures and asset freezes have also become tools to control any business group that have an alleged tie to the Gülen movement. In mid-August, 322 companies with alleged ties to the Gülen movement have been shut down; all financial assets of these companies have been seized.[48]It is known that with the rule of the AKP government in Turkey, companies in Anatolian cities (famously referred to as Anatolian Tigers) received certain privileges and benefited from unequally distributed utilities and thus thrived under AK Party rule.[49]

Arrests, purges and seizures towards the private sector members kept on taking place in September too: one of the biggest construction firms, Dumankaya İnşaat’s (Dumankaya Construction) owners’ assets have been seized due to a suspicion of their financial support to the Gülen movement.[50] Businesspeople who are members of the TUSKON association started to be questioned because of their alleged ties to the Gülen movement in mid-August and they were later on arrested in mid-September. So far, Koza-İpek Holding, Boydak Holding, Dumankaya Holding, Kaynak Holding and Naksan Holding companies have been seized by the state. The number of private companies seized by Tasarruf Mevduatı Sigorta Fonu (the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund) (TMSF) announced by Nurettin Canikli, the Deputy Prime Minister, consisting of 46 groups and 492 companies are now long behind.[51] Canikli’s latest announcement indicates that there are 572 companies seized by TMSF, which resulted in the transfer of 12 billion Turkish Lira to State Treasury.[52]

Closures, detentions and arrests directed towards the private sector became questionable in the eyes of the public opinion. This interference with the business world has been interpreted as an attack on private ownership.

Non-Governmental Organisations

Considering the latest KHK released on February 7th, 1,583 associations have been shut down (and 182 of them were re-open with another decree of law).

Table 4 Closure of NGOs throughout the State of Emergency


As it can be followed from the table above, with the Decree-law No 667, 1,125 NGOs were initially shut down. The list of the 375 associations that have been closed by the decree-law No 677 also includes most of the associations whose activities were suspended previously. Associations such as Türkiye İşadamları ve Sanayicileri Konfederasyonu (TUSKON), İnsan Hakları Araştırmaları Derneği (İHAD), Özgürlükçü Hukukçular Derneği (ÖHD), Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği (ÇHD), Yargıçlar ve Savcılar Birliği (YARSAV), a member association of the European Association of Judges (EAJ) and International Association of Judges (IAJ) since 2009, Van Kadın Derneği (VAKAD), and Gündem Çocuk Derneği are listed among those that have been shut down with the latest Decree-law No 677. The final leap targeted 83 NGOs in 20 different cities. These last two decree-laws, after a massive initial closure of associations having alleged ties with Gülenist movement, had shut down rights-based organizations working on multiple topics (children’s rights, human rights’ researchers, Kurdish issues). As the number of the targeted NGOs increases by the enactment of new decree-laws, the concerns regarding the future of the civil society are worsening.

Concluding remarks

The failed coup attempt was yet another incident that revealed the fragility of the Turkish democracy, state structure, and the political system. Dealing with it could have been an opportunity to transition to a more transparent and democratic governance structure based on the rule of law. The opportunity seems to have been missed. Furthermore, the problems with the governance of the crisis exposed Turkey to a human rights record of mass violations and a weakened state structure and economy amid the terrorist and security threats Turkey faces.

Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey)

Please cite this publication as follows:

Research Turkey (April, 2017), “ An Overview of the post-Coup Attempt Measures in Turkey”, Vol. VI, Issue 4, pp.6 – 19, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (


[1] Amnesty International, Turkey: Human rights in grave danger following coup attempt and subsequent crackdown, 18 July 2016




[4] ‘Turkey: Opinion on the Measures Provided in the Recent Emergency Decree Laws with respect to Freedom of the Media’, European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) (Venice, 10-11 March 2017),


[6]  Human Rights Watch, Turkey: Rights Protections Missing From Emergency Decree” Orders to Purge Civil

Servants, Judges; Close Groups Down, 26 July 2016



[9] For instance, see Administrative Court of Trabzon, File No.2016/1113, Decision No. 2016/1046, 8 September 2016.

[10] Mercan v Turkey, Application no 38924/11,{%22itemid%22:[%22001-164866%22]} and Zihni v Tukey, Application no 59061/16,{%22itemid%22:[%22001-169704%22]}














[24] See para. 98,



[27] A compilation of these statements can be found on the website of the International Association of Judges, at

[28] and









[37] Altın Koza (İpek) Üniversitesi (Ankara), Bursa Orhangazi Üniversitesi (Bursa), Canik Başarı Üniversitesi (Samsun), Selahattin Eyyubi Üniversitesi (Diyarbakır), Fatih Üniversitesi (İstanbul), Melikşah Üniversitesi (Kayseri), Mevlana Üniversitesi (Konya), Şifa Üniversitesi (İzmir), Turgut Özal Üniversitesi (Ankara), Zirve Üniversitesi (Gaziantep), Kanuni Üniversitesi (Adana), İzmir Üniversitesi (İzmir), Murat Hüdavendigar Üniversitesi (İstanbul), Gediz Üniversitesi (İzmir), Süleyman Şah Üniversitesi (İstanbul).


















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