The Turkish government has released numbers on those it has dismissed from government jobs in the past month following a failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: 76,000 detained and more than 16,000 arrested for suspected ties to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen.
The number of individuals detained for questioning or arrested in the aftermath of the failed coup is nearly 100,000, according to Interior Minister Efkan Ala. By far, the largest number of these are firings from government jobs, many in education.
“As of now, the number of suspended personnel is nearly 76,100. There are 5,171 people who were detained and their process of detention is ongoing. A total of 16,899 were arrested,” Ala confirmed on Wednesday, Hurriyet reports. He noted that raids against suspected Gülen supporters have not concluded, as nearly 200 soldiers believed to have been involved in the coup attempt are still at large.
Ala also announced that Turkey is looking to hire 20,000 additional armed services personnel to replace those removed.
The last time the Turkish government provided updated figures on the number of people affected by the anti-Gülen purge, on July 20, the number was closer to 50,000.
Amnesty International has accused the Turkish government of using torture against some suspected coup plotters believed to have been higher up in the anti-government chain of command, and of detaining schoolchildren suspected of having ties to Gülen.
Soldiers stormed the nation’s capital, Ankara, on July 15, announcing that they intended to depose Islamist leader Erdogan and replace the current government with a more democratic one. Erdogan, speaking to the public from an undisclosed location, called on civilians to attack soldiers on the streets, and ultimately regained control of the country. Following the failed coup attempt, the Turkish government has asserted that Fethullah Gülen organized the overthrow.
Gülen is an imam based in Pennsylvania who runs a chain of Islamic charter schools in the United States under a program known as “Hismet.” The Turkish government considers him a cult leader who uses schools to indoctrinate followers into establishing a parallel state in Turkey. The FBI has raided his schools for alleged misappropriations of funding, though American law enforcement have never investigated Gülen for violent crimes.
The Turkish government has twice demanded the United States extradite Gülen. “We sent 85 boxes of files,” Erdogan asserted in a speech Wednesday, suggesting that not extraditing Gülen would erode diplomatic ties between the two countries. “Sooner or later the US will make a choice. Either Turkey or FETO [Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization, the Turkish government’s name for his movement],” he said. Erdogan has also harshly condemned European Union leaders whom he says did not express sufficient concern about the coup attempt, while simultaneously working to repair ties with Russia.
Among the evidence Turkey claims against Gülen are confessions by detained soldiers who participated in the coup, though this evidence is tainted by the allegations of torture.
Adding strain to the relationship between Turkey and the United States is the potential for some of those fugitive soldiers involved in the coup to seek to flee to where Gülen resides. At least one of those soldiers, Gen. Mustafa Zeki Uğurlu, has formally filed for political asylum in the United States, according to Hurriyet. Uğurlu remained active as a NATO liaison as late after the coup attempt as July 27, but is now seeking to flee to the United States. American officials have not made any indication either way regarding whether they would entertain or approve such a demand.