Fear Grips Turkey Amid Government Crackdown After Failed Coup : Parallels Most Turks are afraid to speak out after last week's failed coup. Tens of thousands have been detained. A family looks for their missing soldier son, saying he didn't know he was being used in a plot.
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Fear Grips Turkey Amid Government Crackdown After Failed Coup

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Fear Grips Turkey Amid Government Crackdown After Failed Coup

Fear Grips Turkey Amid Government Crackdown After Failed Coup

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

It's becoming much harder to talk to Turks about the past week in their country - a chaotic week in what seemed to be a stable country. There's fear of more bloodshed in Turkey after more than 260 people were killed during a failed military coup last week. But there's also fear now of the government, which is arresting thousands and cracking down in ways not seen in Turkey in decades. Here's NPR's Leila Fadel.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Of the Justice Palace, Istanbul's largest courthouse, a few dozen people cluster in a plaza near a Starbucks and wait for word on relatives being held inside. Someone passing by looks at them and whispers to his friend - these are the families of the traitors. More than 10,000 Turks have been detained. Most are soldiers accused of being involved in the coup attempt. Many are young conscripts. They were just following orders, their families gathered here say and they were tricked.

SAIM: (Foreign language spoken).

FADEL: One man, who gives his first name, Saim, says he's been here for six days and nights trying to see his son. On the night of the failed coup, his 20-year-old called him and said he was ordered to set a roadblock on one of the large bridges crossing the Bosporous waterway. He sounded terrified. It was the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting in Istanbul. He didn't know why he was posted there, and he wanted to run away.

SAIM: (Foreign language spoken).

FADEL: "This is injustice. My kid was following orders," he says, "and now he'll be stigmatized for his whole life." With Saim is his nephew who's about the same age as his son. The nephew says he's anxious about the state of emergency the government declared last night.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

FADEL: "The police are going to see us walking, and then what?" he asks. "Can they shoot us because they feel suspicious?"

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

FADEL: Turkey's largest city is overcome with a climate of fear. And while almost everyone agrees that a military ouster of an elected government would have been a disaster, many Turks are worried about the big crackdown in the wake of the failed coup. Andrew Gardner is Amnesty International's researcher in Istanbul.

ANDREW GARDNER: What we're seeing is human rights abuses on an unprecedented scale. The scale of these events has not been seen since the military ruled - the military dictatorship of 1992 to 1993. These are unfortunately very dark days in Turkey.

FADEL: He says that Amnesty is getting reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees. He's hearing interrogators are focused more on political affiliations rather than possible participation in the coup. In addition to the detentions, more than 50,000 people have been suspended from their jobs. And Gardner says the government couldn't have gathered real evidence on this many people so quickly.

GARDNER: Perhaps the only thing that's more widespread than these 50,000 suspensions is the fear across the country in Turkey about where will the crackdown go to next.

FADEL: You see the fear everywhere. Turkish analysts who typically speak to foreign journalists are hesitant. One analyst even asked a reporter to leave his phone in the other room will they chatted. Phones are a special concern. There are rumors of police demanding to go through phone data on the street. In central Istanbul, Tolga Olmez Ses serves customers in his book store near Taksim Square, called the maidan.

TOLGA OLMEZ SES: Every morning, our Prime Minister sends a message - every morning. You should go to the maidan. You should go to the maidan. Why? It's not my fight.

FADEL: He's referencing mass text messages Turks are getting on their phones, urging them to protest against the coup. He says this is a fight about political power and money, and that has nothing to do with him. At this point, he'd accept anything from the government if it meant peace. He says his friends are panicked.

SES: (Foreign language spoken).

FADEL: They're deleting messages from their phones and posts on social media that are critical of the government. But Ses never really got into social media, so he's going about his life like he always does, listening to Pink Floyd, reading and waiting for what comes next. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Istanbul.

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