A new study has revealed that the Turkish government has resumed illegal abductions and enforced disappearances that were believed to be a thing of the past, primarily confined to the dark period of the 1990s, when mainly Kurds were victimized, according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF).
The brutal regime of Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has now engaged in depriving many victims of their liberty without acknowledging their unofficial detention, reported SCF. This time the prime target is vulnerable social group the Gülen movement, against which the Turkish government has been pursuing an unprecedented witch-hunt since December 2013.
SCF has so far documented 12 individual cases of disappearance since 2016 that show a systematic and deliberate campaign of kidnappings by elements within the Turkish security and intelligence services as part of a campaign of intimidation to silence critical and independent voices and stifle the right to dissent.
“In addition to mass torture and the ill-treatment of tens of thousands of victims in detention centers and prisons, we have now started to see enforced disappearances in Turkey, sometimes in broad daylight, by security elements linked to the government,” Abdullah Bozkurt, the president of SCF, said.
“Families and loved ones have spent much time searching for truth and justice, but Turkish authorities are indifferent to their plight,” he added.
In one case in which an abductee resurfaced 42 days after he had gone missing, his lawyers revealed that he was kidnapped by men who said they were police officers, was tortured for days and forced to sign a confession before he was eventually handed over to the police for official custody.
The motivations behind these abductions and disappearances appear to be twofold. On the one hand the Turkish government keeps up its campaign of intimidation by amplifying fear in the society. That frightens critics and opponents from adopting a critical position against Erdoğan and his associates in the government.
The second motivation on the part of the government is to elicit forced, fabricated and self-incriminating confessions, often written by the police in advance, so that it will help the government case in criminalizing opposition groups, primarily Gülen movement participants, and facilitate the mass persecution of dissidents.
Turkey survived a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting participants of the Gülen movement in jails.
At least 161,751 people were detained or investigated and 50,334 people were arrested in Turkey in the framework of the Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch-hunt targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt in July, according to statistics reported by state-run Anadolu news agency based on information from the officials at Turkey’s Justice Ministry on June 13.