"How many people were fired when the reunification happened in Germany?"
This question has been persistently used as a cliché answer by the Turkish officials whenever they are asked about the wide-ranging purges in public sector in Turkey.
In the aftermath of the controversial July 15 coup attempt, hundreds of thousands of public employees from all government bodies have been dismissed, without due process, violating Turkish Constitution as well as the international conventions to which Turkey is a signatory. No prior administrative or judicial investigation was carried out. These people were not allowed to use the right to defense.
Erdoğan's authoritarian government has always tried to equate its unlawful dismissals in Turkey with the public employees dismissed in the German reunification process in 1990.
President Erdoğan, in an interview with Die Welt Editor Giovanni Di Lorenzo on 7 July 2017, asked the above-mentioned question and claimed that more than 500 thousand people lost their jobs when the West and East Germany reunited.
Erdoğan's Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın asked the same question at Tim Sebastian's Conflict Zone program on 28 November 2019 and said that 500 thousand civil servants had been fired after the German reunification.
And most recently, Deputy Foreign Minister Faruk Kaymakçı, in his interview on the Tribune de Geneve on 28 January 2020, used the very same argument to justify unlawful purges in Turkey.
I am not an expert on Germany. Based on my preliminary readings, I understand that many dismissal cases in the wake of German reunification were not examined thoroughly and a lot of people lost their jobs because of the lack of due process. Yet, the scope of the purges and the extent of sufferings of the sacked people in Turkey is not comparable to that of Germany and goes far beyond it.
It is unfortunate that Erdoğan's government, in a cunning and a cherry-picking manner, seeks to justify its blatant violations of fundamental rights by making reference to not very well carried out dismissals in another country.
Following questions may provide an overall perspective about the discrepancy between the dismissals in two countries and will give an idea about how the Erdoğan's government ruined the lives of millions of Turkish citizens.
Did German government publish the list of the purged civil servants in the Official Gazette and labeled them as "terrorists"?
Were these people deprived of all basic rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and international law documents?
How many people were detained, arrested, jailed, kept in solitary confinement on dubious grounds?
Were these dismissed Germans tortured and forced to sign pre-written confessions under police custody?
What about the enforced disappearances? It is reported in open sources that about 30 purged Turkish citizens have been abducted so far by black transporters in Turkey and most of them were handed over to the police after having been heavily tortured for months. Where is Yusuf Bilge Tunç, a former employee of the Ministry of Industry, who has been missing since he was abducted by a black transporter on August 6th, 2019?
Were these dismissed people not allowed to find a job even in the private sector or banned to run a business?
Is there any example like that of Adem Gürbüz, a purged military officer committed suicide in a mosque in Istanbul after having been dismissed and was not allowed to make a living?
Did the German government deny the issuance of passports, even for the spouses or the children of the dismissed people?
Was there any child like Ahmet Burhan Ataç, an 8-year-old boy who had to go abroad alone for cancer treatment just because his dad is in jail and his mom has been denied to get a passport?
How many people died because of the dire prison conditions?
What about the hundreds of babies in prison? Were the newborns put into prison along with their moms right after the delivery room? It is reported by the human rights defenders that about 800 hundred children are kept in Turkey's prisons because their parents were arrested.
Was there anyone like Gökhan Açıkkollu, a purged teacher who was reinstated to his job a year and a half after his death under police custody?
Was there anyone like Zekeriya Altunok, a purged police officer who had been dismissed and labeled as a terrorist, but praised later as a martyr when he lost his life while his mandatory military service?
Did people try to flee Germany after having been dismissed? How many people lost their lives while fleeing the country like those who lost their lives in Aegean Sea or Meric River when crossing to Greece?
What about the discriminatory policies against the dismissed people and their relatives? Cutting health benefits and government social aids, not letting them open bank account, etc.
And many other massive human rights violations.
By asking these questions, I am not defending what happened in Germany in 1990 nor have I interest in doing so. I just would like to make a point that dismissals in Germany in the past cannot be an example to explain the purges in Turkey.
If Erdoğan's government seeks a precedent from abroad for its arbitrary rule, I would recommend his advisors to go fifty more years back in the history of Germany from the reunification. There, they will find a type of government that will definitely best suit what they have been doing particularly in post-July 15 Turkey.