President Erdoğan texts Turks to 'stand up' as state of emergency sets in

Turkey has established a three-month state of emergency that allows the president and his cabinet to bypass the country's parliament, part of a harsh crackdown following an attempted coup.

Petros Giannakouris/ AP
A shop owner reads a newspaper in Istanbul on Thursday, July 21, 2016. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday declared a three-month state of emergency following a botched coup attempt, declaring he would rid the military of the 'virus' of subversion and giving the government sweeping powers to expand a crackdown that has already included mass arrests and the closure of hundreds of schools.

The people of Turkey woke on Thursday morning to find not only the first day of a three-month state of emergency, but also a personal text message from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Officials have repeatedly assured the public that the state of emergency, which allows the president and his cabinet to bypass parliament in creating new laws, will not impact their regular order of business. The personal text message suggested continued vigilance, however, as The New York Times reported.  

"Do not abandon the heroic resistance you have put up for your country, homeland and flag," Mr. Erdoğan wrote in the text, urging his supporters to continue their evening protests on his behalf and "teach the traitor, the terrorist a lesson."

Supporters of Erdoğan gathered in public squares Wednesday, the BBC reported, as the president announced the state of emergency, insisting it would purge the state's institutions of the coup plotters. Erdoğan has linked the failed coup to cleric Fethullah Gülen, his former ally now living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

"This step is taken to cleanse the supporters of the Fethullah Gülen terrorist organization from state bureaucracy, to place the state in strong hands in order to make democracy function better," the president said in a speech.

The crackdown that followed Friday's failed coup has already included the arrest or investigation of 60,000 soldiers, academics, police, judges, and government workers since Saturday. Multiple factions of Turkish society came together to end the attempted coup, but the unity could erode quickly as the purge grows, as The Christian Science Monitor reported Thursday. 

The purges are altering the landscape of the judicial and education systems, as thousands of judges and teachers have lost their jobs or been detained. These moves have prompted fears that broader human rights will suffer next, the Monitor's Scott Peterson reported:

Erdoğan’s critics accuse him and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) of using the failed coup to enhance their powers, which already have few limits, as they suspend normal checks and balances.

Critics and rivals have warned for years of Erdoğan’s growing authoritarian rule. For some, the state of emergency brings Turkey one step closer to a high-profile project to change the Constitution to create an all-powerful presidential system, with Erdoğan unassailable at the top.

The Islamic-leaning president, who some fear threatens Turkey's secular, democratic tradition, insisted the purge would protect the rule of law, rights, and freedom of Turkish citizens.

"We will remain within a democratic parliamentary system. We will never step away from it," Erdoğan told Al-Jazeera via interpreter.

The continuing unity will depend on how well Turkey's state of emergency can answer that promise.

"No one should create an opportunity for dictatorship from a coup," said Özgur Özel, vice president of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), according to the Monitor. "With this coup, there is a struggle now against the space for independence and democracy." 

This report includes material from Reuters.

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