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Turkey in a week, July 9th, 2018

AKP government and President Erdoğan announced last week that the state of emergency (SoE) which has been in effect since the coup attempt of July 18th, 2016, will definitely be lifted after a final SoE decree including regulations about how the new Government Presidency System works. Public servants also waited anxiously for this final decree before SoE being lifted as Prime Minister Yıldırım –who will be the last prime minister when the presidential government system will begin today- said there will be purges from several public institutions by this final decree. People locked the Official Gazette’s webpage on Friday evening to check if their names are on the decree. The dismissal decree finally came on Saturday and 18,632 Turkish public workers were dismissed. SoE dismissal decrees not only expel public servants from their posts also cancel their passports and make impossible work in the country as by the decree expelled people are branded as terrorists by the state. There is no legal way to challenge one’s dismissal as the courts do not accept the appeals from dismissed citizens. Only legal way, despite its questionable structure, has been left to dismissed citizens to challenge their dismissals through the SoE Commission which has only given verdict on 17 thousand applications out of around 109 thousand applications since the end of 2017. Out of this 17 thousand, only 660 were returned to their posts. Experts estimate that with this pace the commission can finalise the appeals of dismissals in ten years and it is clear that this cannot be called justice.

Turkey will keep being governed by decrees, now Presidential decrees with the new system. The first decree will come today just after the presidential ceremony taking place at the palace with some 3,000 invitees. Following the oath-taking ceremony, the president will issue the first presidential decree through which the new 16 ministries in total will be formed and after the ministries are established with the decree, the new ministers will be appointed by Erdoğan.

However, the oath-taking ceremony coincided with the final verdict day of Soma trial and train derailment which killed at least 24 and injured more than 120 in north-western Turkey. In 2014, 301 coal miners were killed in the western town of Soma, after a fire broke out inside a mine shaft. The court was supposed to reveal its final verdict on Monday, July 9th, (today), but, the trial was postponed to July 13th. The official reason for the postponement is sick leave of the chief judge of the court, but observers argued that the government wanted to prevent by any chance that the verdict casts shadow over the presidential inauguration ceremony. Moreover, after having 24 deaths due to train accident at the weekend, people were criticising on social media that the presidential ceremony is still on. More importantly, publication ban for the news about the train accident was issued immediately, raising concerns over press freedom once again.

Another worrying development particularly regarding freedom of expression in Turkey happened after the graduation ceremony at Middle East Technical University in Ankara. Students carried several banners criticizing the government and President Erdoğan during the ceremony as they do every year. However, this time 5 students were arrested after the ceremony from their homes. Among the detainee students, Students’ Representative Council (ÖTK) chair Özgür Mehmet Gür was also arrested on charges of defaming President Erdoğan. Students who were arrested were carrying a banner with a very famous cartoon of the cartoonist Erdil Yaşaroğlu in Penguen. Erdil Yaşaroğlu drew the cartoon, The World of Tayyips (Tayyipler Alemi) to support another famous cartoonist Musa Kart who were sued by President Erdoğan back in 2005 with his newspaper Cumhuriyet for defaming Erdoğan and charged with 3500 Euro fine for “publicly humiliating the prime minister” by printing the image. The cartoon was portraying then Prime Minister Erdoğan as a cat entangled in a ball of wool. Over 70 thousand students have been jailed in Turkey.

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