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Days After Failed Coup, Turkey's Epic Crackdown Persists

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Turkey's government says as many as 18,000 police officers, members of the military, judges and others have been fired or arrested since a failed coup. It's alleged they are followers of an elderly Muslim cleric named Fethullah Gulen. He now lives in exile in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says Gulen inspired the coup and wants him back in the country. For more, we reached via Skype reporter Tulin Daloglu in the Turkish capital Ankara.

TULIN DALOGLU: Erdogan has declared the Gulen movement a terrorist organization and announced an outright war against the group. So Erdogan is now trying - I mean, just, you know, turning this failed military coup into an action of cleansing all state institutions from the Guleners (ph). But just as you mentioned in your introduction, these mass arrests may shatter the bureaucracy here.

MONTAGNE: Are, in fact, many of these people in this Gulen movement or is this a - just the idea of the president's and the people around him?

DALOGLU: Well, there is no evidence. But, you know, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has strongly rejected the claims that they had prepared the arrest list before the Friday's failed coup attempt.

MONTAGNE: Yes, though just quickly, there were so many names on this list, thousands and thousands, that the suggestion has been that the president had this list all prepared long before this coup attempt.

DALOGLU: True. But let's take, you know, what the foreign minister say with his own words, and let's really assume that these lists were not prepared in advance. Then what we see is that, you know, since Friday onwards, they have, you know, cut 18,000 state employees' work all at once. So that's just, you know, really unthinkable. How do you do that?

And if they're not on duty, if they're not doing their job, who is doing it? Who replaces it? And don't forget Turkey has been attacked by IS and the PKK in the last six-seven months, and, you know, capital Ankara has been stopped three times by the Islamic State. And that's really kind of nerve-wracking for any citizen here.

MONTAGNE: In the light of this, the president, Erdogan, he is now saying that people are calling and demanding the death penalty for those participating in the coup. That's a pretty big thing. Is it likely?

DALOGLU: If the president is bringing this to discussion in public, I would take it seriously. So the risks are out there and so that's why I keep saying yes this military coup failed, but maybe we are going through a civilian coup that's followed after a failed coup.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for talking with us.

DALOGLU: Thank you so much for the invite.

MONTAGNE: That's reporter Tulin Daloglu speaking with us from the capital of Turkey, Ankara. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.