KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Turkey's government says it is purging Turkish institutions of anyone who is loyal to a man named Fethullah Gulen. He's a cleric. He lives in the U.S., and Turkey's president says he was behind the recent coup attempt. We'll hear more about Gulen in a moment.
But first we have the latest from Turkey, where well over 18,000 judges, police officers, university deans and even teachers accused of being affiliated with Gulen have been sacked, and more than 7,000 people, mostly soldiers, have been detained or arrested. U.S. and European diplomats are urging Turkey to show restraint and uphold the rule of law. And now we're joined by NPR's Leila Fadel who is in Istanbul. Hi there, Leila.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Hi.
MCEVERS: So tell us what the Turkish government is saying about all of these arrests and firings.
FADEL: Well, the government's saying they survived a bloody attempted takeover by a, quote, "terrorist organization," and they want to cut it out of their institutions. Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has referred to it as a virus.
And so right now, when you watch Turkish television, it's a constant perp walk of police detaining generals and other officers. Earlier today Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for the president, spoke to foreign journalists about this.
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IBRAHIM KALIN: You have to understand that, you know, we survived a coup. People have been killed, and I personally could have been killed. And many people that you see now making statements could have killed or arrested or put in prison, so you have to understand the psychology here.
FADEL: Now, he says they're happy that NATO, the EU, the United States have condemned the attempted coup against a democratic government, but telling Turkey to follow the rule of law when they say they're facing a serious threat is not appropriate. That's what the government is saying.
MCEVERS: So we are talking, though, about close to 20,000 people already. What are the government's critics saying?
FADEL: There are thousands upon thousands of people being fired throughout Turkey's ministries, and this includes 15,200 people just from the education ministry. And so critics are saying, why so many, and why so quick? Is there a prepared list? The European Union commissioner actually said, it seems to point to a prepared list. And this is something that Turkey is denying.
MCEVERS: Are you learning more about how this attempted coup unfolded over the weekend?
FADEL: So things are becoming a little bit more clear. Today the military put out a statement saying they got intelligence around 4:00 p.m. on Friday that something was going on. And Kalin, the spokesman for the president, says shortly thereafter - an hour, maybe two hours - they lost touch with the chief of staff of the army, who was taken hostage. The question many critics have said is, why didn't the government know about this earlier, especially if it involves these thousands and thousands of people?
The president's hotel was then attacked. They lost communication. President told CNN that actually if he'd been in that hotel where he was vacationing with his family 10 or 15 more minutes longer, he would have been killed. And Kalin says the men were going room to room in the hotel looking for Erdogan.
MCEVERS: What's it like there in Istanbul? What are people saying to you as you come across them in the streets or other places?
FADEL: Well, at this point still, every night there are revelers in the street. The president has asked people to go out every night for a week until next Friday. So they come out chanting religious slogans, playing music, waving flags. But you can also see the divisions on the streets, the people who look at them with scorn who aren't fans of Erdogan.
There have also been funerals every day for those that were killed. There were more than 230 people killed during the events on Friday and into Saturday. But now Turkey's government says those who were involved in the coup and were killed are not even allowed to be buried religiously.
MCEVERS: That's NPR's Leila Fadel in Istanbul. Thank you very much.
FADEL: Thank you.
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