Dozens of high-ranking Turkish military officers formerly posted at Nato headquarters in Brussels and SHAPE military headquarters in Mons are among more than 125,000 people President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleges helped launch a failed coup against him in July. Erdogan has called them “terrorist soldiers”.
Several of these officers spoke to Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, under cover of anonymity.
According to DW, they are mostly Western-educated, some with PhDs and multiple master’s degrees from American universities and institutions, with many Nato exercises under their belts. All of them say they had nothing to do with the attempted overthrow of the Erdogan government, that they denounced it immediately and continued working as loyal military representatives of the Turkish government. Yet one by one, their names showed up on one of almost 20 lists of suspects that have been circulated by Ankara to Turkey’s missions abroad, usually late on Fridays.
In cover letters attached to those lists, the officers say, they were given instructions to turn in their Nato passes and diplomatic passports, told they are eligible now only for an identity document that goes one way – back to Turkey. And most were ordered to do that within three days of being notified; some even sooner. No charges were given, simply lists of names, ranks and services and the information that they had been suspended or fired.
One officer told DW that he and others were planning to obey the orders. “Our first reaction was to go back and defend ourselves as we were innocent of any anti-government activity,” he said. “We said goodbye to our colleagues at Nato. Then we heard that 17 of our colleagues who did return had been arrested. So we thought it would be better to wait.”
One Brussels-based officer was not on any list, so when he was summoned to a meeting in Ankara, he decided to go. A refusal, he feared, would make him look suspicious. That was six weeks ago. Since then his wife has not seen him or talked to him.
One officer wrote a goodbye letter to his Nato colleagues. He titled it “Silent scream of a Turkish officer”. He shared the letter with DW.
“Like my other Turkish colleagues, my dismissal does not mean only losing my job. I have almost lost all my military IDs, passport, social rights, health coverage, bank accounts, retirement pension, working rights etc… And more sadly, I am left by myself without any past and unfortunately without any future. But now, I think that we – the Turkish people – have lost the values of respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights. My individual losses are nothing compared with my country’s losses.”