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Turkish leader extends nation’s state of emergency

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, waved to supporters as he arrived for a political party gathering in Ankara.Press Presidency Press Service/AP/Pool

ISTANBUL — In a signal that Turkey faces indefinite rule by decree, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Sunday that a state of emergency, introduced as a temporary measure after last year’s failed coup, would continue until the country achieved “welfare and peace.”

The state of emergency allows Erdogan and his Cabinet to issue sweeping decrees without parliamentary oversight or review by the constitutional court, giving him an almost untrammeled grip on power.

So far, the decrees have allowed Erdogan to jail more than 40,000 people accused of plotting a failed coup, fire or suspend more than 140,000 additional people, shut down about 1,500 civil groups, arrest at least 120 journalists, and close more than 150 news media outlets.


In late April, a decree issued under the state of emergency was used to block access to Wikipedia.

Despite international criticism of these measures, Erdogan said on Sunday that the state of emergency “will not be lifted,” according to Anadolu Agency, a state-owned news wire. “Until when? Until the situation reaches welfare and peace.”

A recent referendum victory gave Erdogan the power to rule by decree from 2019 onward, provided that he wins presidential elections held in that year. But his announcement on Sunday means he can continue to wield such power in the intervening period.

International rights groups say that although the state of emergency was initially justified because it followed a coup attempt that left at least 249 people dead, it is now being used as a pretext for quashing dissent.

“What we’ve seen is that instead of using the state of emergency to counter genuine threats to national security, it’s been abused to stifle criticism of the ruling AK party,” said Andrew Gardner, a Turkey researcher for Amnesty International, using the Turkish initials for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. “And there’s every signal that that will continue.”


Amnesty says it will publish a report on Monday detailing the “catastrophic impact” that the state of emergency — and the purges it has precipitated — has had on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Turkish families.

“More than 100,000 people have not just lost their jobs, in a completely arbitrary process, but had their professional and personal lives shattered as well,” Gardner said.

As far back as December, legal experts from the Council of Europe, an influential pressure group, warned that if the Turkish government “rules through emergency powers for too long, it will inevitably lose democratic legitimacy.”

In his speech on Sunday, Erdogan shrugged off these concerns. “In my country, they tried to overthrow the state, and we gave 249 martyrs, and had 2,193 injured,” he said in remarks carried by Anadolu Agency. “How dare you ask us to lift the state of emergency?”

Erdogan spoke at a conference for his party, at which he was formally reaccepted as leader. Erdogan left the party in 2014 to run for the presidency, an office that was then meant to be politically neutral; last month’s referendum removed that requirement, allowing Erdogan to rejoin his party.

His comments capped a turbulent week for him. In a visit to Washington on Tuesday, Erdogan failed to persuade President Trump to abandon an alliance with a group of Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Turkey regards as terrorists. Later in the day, Erdogan watched silently as his bodyguards assaulted several people protesting his policies.


Erdogan was a cofounder of the ruling Justice and Development Party. At its congress Sunday, he was the only candidate for chairman. A narrow victory in a referendum last month to expand the powers of the Turkish presidency allows him to be both the head of state and of a political party.

Speaking to tens of thousands of people the party meeting in Ankara, Erdogan said he was back after ‘‘998 days of separation’’ from the party, the Associated Press reported. He outlined a vision for its immediate future and elections scheduled for November 2019 with new executive and grassroots teams.

‘‘This congress is the AK Party’s rebirth,’’ he said before the vote. ‘‘AK Party is not just its voters’ party, it’s the party for all of our 80 million citizens.’’

Elected with 1,414 votes, Erdogan set the party’s course for what he called a ‘‘new era’’ of reforms.

‘‘The upcoming months will be a period of soaring in all areas, including combatting terror, the economy, expanding rights and freedoms and investments,’’ the president said.

Erdogan was forced to cut his formal ties to the party when he became the country’s first directly elected president in 2014. Last month’s referendum eliminated a constitutional requirement mandating that presidents be neutral and cut ties with their political parties.

Critics say the referendum transforming Turkey’s parliamentary governing system to an executive presidency was marred by allegations of election fraud. The vote took place under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of last year’s failed coup. Turkey blames the network of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for the July 15 coup attempt, a charge Gulen has denied.