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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More