News / Middle East

Turkey Fears 'Deep State' Return

Hundreds of protesters march to mark the seventh anniversary of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink's murder in Ankara, Turkey, Jan.19, 2014.
Hundreds of protesters march to mark the seventh anniversary of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink's murder in Ankara, Turkey, Jan.19, 2014.
Dorian Jones
The release of retired senior military figures and crime bosses in Turkey is prompting concern that the country's so-called "deep state" could return. 

A legal reform introduced by the Turkish government has seen dozens of retired military officers and members of the country’s criminal underworld released from jail. Many have been convicted of crimes linked to what prosecutors have termed “Derin Devlet” or deep state - unofficial networks of power that prosecutors claim are responsible for political assassinations of people considered enemies of the state.

Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul Policy Forum said the releases were worrisome.

"The Turkish public opinion is extremely worried about these releases because these people might think about taking revenge in the months to come," said Aktar.

Among those released are people convicted of assassinating prominent Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Prosecutors allege that the killers of three missionaries also have been released. Others are accused of forming death squads within the security forces.

But human rights groups said most of the victims of crimes committed by Turkey’s so-called “deep state” were activists fighting for Kurdish minority rights, especially during the 1990s at the height of fighting between the Turkish state and the Kurdish rebel group PKK.

Several offices of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party have been attacked by Turkish nationalists this month during local election campaigns. The party’s leader, Ertugrul Kurkcu, said the deep state organization was involved.

"This group is the major mastermind behind these attacks. They, of course, did not lead those attacks, while they were in prison. But this is the remnants of this group which has been very active in the past atrocities against the Kurds and democrats," he said.

Kurkcu and many other political observers said the government has released individuals linked to Turkey’s deep state in a bid to enlist its support in its battle against followers of an Islamic cleric, Fetullah Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. The government accused his followers of infiltrating sections of judiciary and police.

Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar of Carnegie Europe, doubted the government would take such a risky move. He blamed the releases on shortcomings within the judiciary.

"From the standpoint from the government this was also an unwanted development because most of Turkish society is critical with this development," he said. "Certainly some of the people have been associated with Turkey’s deep state, can regroup. But I don’t think that’s possible anymore because there has been fundamental change in the civil military relationship and that will not change."

Political scientist Aktar acknowledged that Turkey has changed from the time when the military directly intervened in politics. But he said with the government having purged thousands of polices officers and members of the judiciary in its battle against Gulen's followers, Turkey remains vulnerable to political intrigue.

"The police and justice have been shaken and destabilized. Therefore we don’t know who will ensure the public order, with that many criminals there in the streets of the country. It's very worrisome," said Aktar.

Human rights groups accused Turkey’s "deep state" of thousands of political deaths and disappearances during the 1990s.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs