ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
In Turkey, the sweeping crackdown that began after the failed coup attempt in July isn't slowing down. A three-month state of emergency billed as a temporary measure has just been extended for another three months. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports that some Turks say their leaders are using emergency powers to bypass democratic checks and balances.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came before a gathering of neighborhood leaders recently, he knew what his audience wanted to hear. An extended state of emergency with more decrees and more purges? Bring it on.
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RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN: (Foreign language spoken).
KENYON: "We're in a race against time to root out terrorism," the president said. He added that three months wasn't nearly enough time. It could take as long as a year. In response to a question, he mused that maybe even a year wouldn't be long enough.
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ERDOGAN: (Foreign language spoken).
KENYON: The warm applause that greeted Erdogan's remarks was not just Turkish respect for a strong leader. Surveys show continued popular support for the government even as the purge reaches well beyond those suspected of actively supporting the coup. But worries about where Turkey is heading are beginning to grow. Istanbul's main commercial artery, Istiklal Street, still draws street musicians and crowds.
But more and more shops are shuttered as the economy struggles. At a tiny sidewalk tea shop, columnist and author Mustafa Akyol says many Turks will continue to back the government as long as they believe it's trying to prevent another coup. But he says a growing minority fears the government is using the state of emergency to enact unpopular policy goals that have nothing to do with protecting Turkey's democracy.
MUSTAFA AKYOL: Actually, the governor of Yozgat, a small city in the middle of Anatolia, he used the state of emergency to get rid of not terrorism but something much more innocent, which is alcoholic bars and clubs. And he said, actually, I couldn't do this in normal times. Now I have the power to do it. Well, that's precisely the point (laughter).
That's precisely the point that if you give any government too much power, the government tends to do things that it fancies but that's not acceptable for some parts of the society.
KENYON: Akyol finds another example disturbing, the recent closure of nearly two dozen small, left-wing or pro-Kurdish radio and TV outlets. Just up the street, I meet one of those journalists, newly out of a job. Eyup Borc is holding a sort of wake for IMC TV, where he was editor in chief when police moved in and silenced the channel's outspoken, left-wing broadcast.
Borc sees the current situation as a struggle between a government bent on increasing its power and a steadily shrinking pro-Democratic opposition.
EYUP BORC: (Through interpreter) The state of emergency is now targeting the democratic forces in society, not coup suspects. The coup that failed in July actually gave birth to a more successful coup, one that gets rid of opposing voices and allows for a more authoritarian government.
KENYON: Borc doesn't agree with critics who say the post-coup purge is out of control. He says it's a determined and focused effort to silence dissent. But he's not defending the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies the government's charge that he backed the coup.
BORC: (Through interpreter) If Fethullah Gulen had succeeded in the coup attempt, the result for us would have been exactly the same. They would have gone after independent voices just like the government is doing now.
KENYON: Turkish officials say they're aware of the complaints about the purge and will correct any miscalculations. But critics worry that it will be a very different Turkey that emerges if and when the state of emergency ends. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.