The purge continues: protests turn violent, websites blocked and 4,000 civil servants dismissed
On 1st May 2017, thousands took part in May Day demonstrations across Turkey in spite of restrictions on peaceful assembly due to Turkey's continued state of emergency. As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, the prolonged use of emergency laws in the wake of the failed coup in July 2016 has afforded Turkish authorities broad powers to severely suppress civic freedoms.
Rallies to commemorate May Day, a day to recognise labour rights, took place in Istanbul, Izmir and Adana as trade unions mobilised across the country. While many of these demonstrations were peaceful, police and protesters clashed in Istanbul. The clashes erupted when approximately 200 demonstrators attempted to march to Taksim Square in Istanbul, where a number of anti-government protests have taken place over the years. The authorities, however, had declared Taksim off limits for May Day rallies. Security forces used tear gas to prevent the crowd from reaching the Square, and 207 people were reportedly detained as the march was dispersed. Turkish security forces also claimed that they confiscated Molotov cocktails, grenades and fireworks from protesters.
As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, the extended state of emergency in the country has broadened Turkish authorities' power, leading to a stronger crackdown on any form of dissent in the media. The government has arbitrarily blocked media content deemed a threat to national security or public order.
At 8:00am on 29th April 2017, the media monitoring group, Turkey Blocks, detected the filtering and censoring of online information in the country. The Turkish authorities had banned TV dating shows and blocked the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. Reports showed that the website was blocked after Wikipedia refused to remove content related to Turkey's role in supporting terrorism.
Mass purges against dissidents have continued in Turkey, with nearly 4,000 public officials being dismissed from their positions on 29th April 2017. Employees from several government ministries, military personnel and members of the judiciary were fired in another crackdown against civil servants supposedly aligned with Fethullah Gülen, who authorities allege was mastermind behind the failed coup in July 2016.
In addition, 45 civil society groups and health clinics were also shut down as the government continued its assault on independent civic groups. Since July 2016, the journalists' association - Turkey Purge - has documented more than 138,000 cases of individuals dismissed from their positions as well as over 1,500 cases of civil society organisations forced to close.