Betul Celep, civil servant
Sacked January 6
At least 7,399 people were dismissed that day
When Betul Celep read her name in a once-obscure government journal, her life as she knew it ended.
Under Ohal, Mr Erdogan’s decrees become official upon publication in the Resmi Gazete, and buried among tax code amendments and civil service exam rules were the names of those to be dismissed.
Many of Ms Celep’s colleagues had already been fired so she was anxiously checking the gazette to see if her name was there. For the 36-year-old, who worked at the Istanbul governor’s aid agency and lives alone in an apartment, the first thing that came to mind on reading her name was how she would feed the 50 stray cats she cared for.
No reason was given for her sacking – the decrees are usually no more than a single line, followed by long lists of names – and she knew there would be no chance of appeal. “I never got any document, any explanation,” Ms Celep says.
But in the days leading up to her dismissal, she and several hundred others had been questioned about their politics. “I was a leftist, a union representative, a feminist. When they won’t give you a reason, you have to guess the reason – they didn’t want someone like me in the new Turkey they are building.”
Her life is now unrecognisable from the one she had before Ohal. “If you’re fired by decree, it’s like you are a leper,” she says. “Nobody wants to talk to you, nobody wants to touch you, nobody wants to take your case, nobody wants to come close to you. There’s no place in this society for people like us.” Since she was sacked, Ms Celep has taken to the streets in Kadikoy, a neighbourhood of Istanbul that is home to many students, demonstrating every day with a handful of others to raise awareness of the victims of Ohal.
She lives off the money she had saved to study for a master’s degree in gender studies at Istanbul University, but it won’t last long, she says. Her flatmate moved out, worried that she, too, might lose her job after the police visited Ms Celep’s flat when she became involved in the protests. “All the relationships around you change: those who were once friends no longer call you, and instead you make new friends, new relationships,” she says. “Now, the police officers know me. They say hello to me when they’re having coffee or see me on the street.”
Ms Celep says that fear of detention is always at the back of her mind. She wants to build a movement against what she sees as the unjust and arbitrary dismissals. “We are too many. If we can use our power, we can end the cruelty.