Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, has called on Myanmar and Thailand to provide Turkish schoolteacher Furkan Sökmen and his family access to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.
Myanmar-based education professional Furkan Sökmen and his family were detained on Wednesday at Yangon International Airport while trying to board a flight to Bangkok. The teacher appears to be the latest victim of the Turkish government’s worldwide purge targeting alleged followers of the Gülen movement, reported Coconuts Yangon on Thursday.
“Both Myanmar and Thailand had the opportunity to do the right thing and provide this school administrator with access to #UNHCR so that his serious fears of persecution and possible torture if returned to Turkey could be examined,” Robertson said a statement on Friday.
“To do so would have been both humane and rights respecting, but both governments took the apparently cynical view that Turkey can do whatever it wants with its citizens, even those residing legally in other countries.”
“Government leaders in Yangon and Bangkok have instead shamelessly chose to play the role of willing handmaidens to Turkey’s rights abusing campaign to strip its own citizens of their passports and force them back to a fate that could include possible torture, long pre-trial detention, and trials on trumped up charges before courts where proceedings are likely to be neither free nor fair,” added HRW’s Robertson.
NBA Oklahoma City Thunder player Enes Kanter, who was briefly detained on Saturday at an airport in Romania upon a request from the Turkish government, told CBS news on Monday that he went to Romania after fleeing Indonesia when he found out he was being pursued by local intelligence.
“I was sleeping around 2:30 or something and my manager knocked on my door. He said the Secret Service and the Indonesian army were looking for me because the Turkish government told them I was a dangerous man,” Kanter said.
Earlier this month, three Turkish nationals – a teacher, an academic, and a businessman – were abducted without warning in Malaysia and deported. Their detention was followed by contradictory statements from Malaysian officials: the deputy prime minister claimed the trio had links to the Islamic State, while the police chief said they were linked to Gülen, reported Coconuts Yangon.
On Wednesday, a Turkish teacher was detained in Georgia at the request of the Turkish government.
The Turkish government has been trying to confiscate more than 50,000 passports including those held by relatives of journalists living in exile due to their links to the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who the Turkish government says was behind a failed coup in Turkey on July 15.