Sixteen staff members of the Kayseri-based Abdullah Gül University, which bears the name of Turkey’s former president, have been detained on the grounds that they use a smart phone application known as ByLock.
The 16 people, including research assistants, civil servants and academics, were detained on Tuesday morning as part of an investigation conducted by the Kayseri Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against the faith-based Gülen movement.
They are accused of using ByLock, which according to the prosecutors, is the top communication tool among members of the Gülen movement, accused by the government of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15. Critics, however, have blasted the government for detaining thousands simply for using a mobile application.
Tens of thousands of civil servants have either been dismissed or arrested for using the application. Critics say the use of a technological application is not a criminal activity nor is it evidence of membership in a terrorist organization.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Despite Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, and the movement having denied the accusation, Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
About 105,000 people have been purged from state bodies, in excess of 75,000 detained and over 34,000 have been arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and even a comedian. Critics argue that lists of Gülen sympathizers were drawn up prior to the coup attempt.
This article originally appeared in Turkish Minute on Nov. 1.