During the height of the protests, participants knew a crackdown could follow. But the reality still seems far-fetchedby Hannah Lucinda Smith / August 3, 2017 / Leave a comment
It has become normal for George Orwell to creep into political conversations in Turkey: the parallels are too numerous to resist.
A year on from a failed coup attempt, more than 150,000 people have been arrested, fired, or driven into self-imposed exile. The group President Erdogan accuses of orchestrating the revolt are the shadowy followers of an Islamic preacher called Fethullah Gulen. Turks are told that they act as if they are secular—drinking alcohol and wearing revealing clothes—to cover their real pious identities. Consequently, anyone could find the finger of blame pointed at them. Being in possession of a one-dollar bill bearing a certain serial number has been enough to land some people in prison; for others, it was wearing a t-shirt printed with the word ‘Hero’ (both are claimed to be secret signs that Gulen’s followers use to communicate between themselves). Book dumping became common as the crackdown hit—no-one wants to be caught with one of Gulen’s tomes on their shelf. Meanwhile, the justice system is in meltdown. More than 4,000 of those who have been purged are from the judiciary, slashing its manpower by a quarter at the exact moment that thousands of coup cases are beginning to move through the courts. Many of the 50,000 being held in prison are yet to find out exactly what they are accused of. In court, the prosecution’s case is often just a chronology of all that happened on the night of the coup. I travel to drab concrete neighbourhoods at the end of Istanbul’s metro lines to meet the people caught up in the purge. They have often retreated into the shadows, shunned by friends and family members who either believe the accusations against them, or are scared of being tarred by association. They tell me their ways of coping; one woman, discharged from her job and now living in fear of arrest, has turned to God and started covering her head. “After my dismissal, I started to study the Koran again. Gulen people have the tendency to do this, but I don’t care because the people don’t care about me,” she said. “When I was first trying it [the headscarf] I tried different styles. I thought I looked too much like an AKP supporter (Erdogan’s…