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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Panel held to discuss aftermath of coup attempt in Turkey

Photo by Andrew Himmelberg // [email protected]

Marquette’s Department of History and the Niagara Foundation of Milwaukee sponsored a discussion on the aftermath of July’s failed coup d’etat attempt in Turkey.

The foundation’s purpose is to coordinate conversations between people of different backgrounds and faiths. The panel, held Nov. 21 in Raynor Library, discussed U.S.-Turkish relations, personal experiences after the coup attempt and the widespread arrests and purges enforced by the Turkish government.

Hakan Berberoglu, the executive director of the Niagara Foundation, said there is no way for common citizens to know who was behind the attempt, as the Turkish government has taken away access to most information.

“The government of Turkey is constantly blocking access of people and access of media to information in Turkey,” Berberoglu said. “Since there’s no fair trial, no court, no due process since the beginning of the coup attempt, it’s obviously very difficult for us to access neutral information.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish businessman and preacher, was the mastermind behind the coup attempt. Gulen leads a group called the Gulen Movement, an Islamic religious and social movement.

“How does (Erdogan) know without due process, that’s a big question mark,” Berberoglu said.

An extensive purge was orchestrated by the Turkish government after the attempt. More than 100,000 Turkish citizens have been fired from their respective jobs and more than 35,000 have been arrested. Kent Redding, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said the purge represents an erosion of democratic elements in Turkish society.

“That sets a very bad precedent for the future of the nation when it was really on the cusp of being a role model … particularly in its own neighborhood, for other countries in terms of its democratic practices,” Redding said.

Gulen has lived in the United States since 1999. Shortly after the attempted overthrow, the Turkish government requested Gulen be extradited to Turkey. In response, President Obama said there wasn’t sufficient evidence for extradition. However, the future of Turkey-United States relations could look different under the Trump administration, Redding said.

“There is, of course, the hope from Turkey that Trump will enter in a new era and perhaps extradite Gulen,” he said.  “At the same time, Turkey has issued a recent travel advisory for its own citizens to come to the United States because of Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, which as we know has led to problems for Muslims in the United States.”

Serdar Gurses was an assistant professor of biology at Zirve University School of Medicine in Turkey before the coup attempt. He said on the morning of the attempt, his son was born.

“He’s four months old so I can always recall how long it has been since the coup,” Gurses said. “In the morning my son was born, and by night, we were not celebrating because we were trying to understand what was going on in Turkey.”

A week later, Zirve University was closed by a governmental decree for alleged ties to the Gulen movement. University employees didn’t receive their salary for the month because the school used a bank which had ties to Gulen.

“We were left without any money or job,” Gurses said. “If you didn’t have close family, your father, brother or sister supporting you, basically you had nowhere to go.”

Gurses said he was one of the lucky ones, as he had family that could help.

“We were able to basically move in with my father,” he said. “Otherwise, I don’t know what would’ve happened. I was using my father’s credit card to buy diapers for my son.”

Gurses said his situation improved and he was able to come to the U.S. He will join Marquette as a visiting scholar of biology in December.

“Hopefully things will be better for me and for Turkey,” Gurses said.

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