Turkey’s Presidential Guard To Be Disbanded After State Of Emergency Is Announced

Turkey’s elite presidential guard is to be disbanded after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a state of emergency for three months.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim detained at least 283 of the guards’ 2,500 members following the uprising, telling the A Haber TV channel that “there will no longer be a presidential guard, there is no purpose, there is no need.” President Erdogan has also launched a widespread crackdown following the attempted coup, arresting thousands of service personnel and suspending thousands of government officials, school teachers, and university heads. 

Such measures come in the wake of a state of emergency being declared this week, allowing the president and cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend fundamental human rights and freedoms. Speaking at the presidential palace in Ankara, President Erdogan vowed that

“all the viruses within the armed forces will be cleansed.”

Critics of Mr. Erdogan have accused him of consolidating power on an unprecedented scale and using the emergency to acquire more power for his presidency.

The government insists it will not affect the daily life of citizens and that the state of emergency will only root out the “virus” behind the coup. However, doubts persist over how an increasingly authoritarian leader will use this, especially given the recent purges, and since the constitutional court will be unable to challenge President Erdogan in his attempts to re-appropriate civil law.

Paradoxically, President Erdogan has claimed that his strengthening in power over the state actually aims to safeguard democracy and the rights of his people.

“This measure is in no way against democracy, the law and freedoms,” he said.

During the speech, President Erdogan also praised those who were killed fighting against the coup as “martyrs.” Some 246 people were killed resisting the attempted coup, according to the government, and were commended for their “heroic acts of bravery” in resisting it.

The BBC’s Mark Lowen says a board listing the names has appeared in Istanbul’s Taksim Square baring alarmingly jingoistic qualities.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier responded to the president’s speech by urging the Turkish government to maintain both the rule of law and a sense of proportionality in its response to the failed coup.

“Only provable involvement in illegal acts, not suspected political leanings, should trigger governmental action,” Mr. Steinmeier said. “It’s also critical that the declaration of emergency be the truly necessary length of time, and to end the measure as quickly as possible.”

Concerns that President Erdogan is already abusing his radically enhanced powers under the state of emergency were perpetuated by threats of further arrests and suspensions. Earlier, Mr. Erdogan warned that Turkish authorities will continue to pursue those they believed to be responsible for the thwarted putsch, and these threats came to actualization when he further extended the period in which suspects can be detained without charge to 30 days.

The president has blamed the coup attempt on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally whose followers run a worldwide network of schools. It is believed, due to the latter, that officials have continued to take action against university and school employees, such as by shutting down educational establishments, banning foreign travel for academics, and forcing university heads of faculty to resign.

A statement carried by the state media ordered the closure of more than 1,000 private schools and more than 1,200 associations. Furthermore, according to Turkish media, the government has also revoked the press credentials of 34 journalists who it alleges are connected to Mr. Gulen. These methods have been criticized by human rights groups, as well as by France, Germany, and senior EU officials as excessive and totalitarian in essence.

Amnesty International has stated that Mr. Erdogan is going “well beyond what might be considered a legitimate reaction to the coup attempt.”

In response, President Erdogan told France 24 television that the EU was “biased and prejudiced” against Turkey, and remains resolute in his bid to consolidate power and eliminate dissent.