Turkish university student goes missing while trying to flee to Greece

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A lifebelt is seen on the beach of the port of Lesbos island on April 16, 2015. Since Greece bolstered controls along its land border with Turkey, along the Evros River, illegal immigrants have turned to the maritime route between Turkey and the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, notably Lesbos, Samos, Kos and Chios. 2015 started with a major increase in the number of Aegean crossings: 10,445 against 2,863 in the same period of 2014, according to the Greek port police. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS

A 21-year-old Turkish university student, Mahir Mete Kul, has gone missing while trying to flee to Greece via the Maritsa River as the boat carrying him capsized, the gazetekarınca news website reported on Monday.

Kul reportedly wanted to flee Turkey because he was standing trial on terrorism charges due to his alleged links to a radical leftist organization, known as the Revolutionary Youth (Dev-Genç).

He was studying computer engineering at İstanbul’s Beykent University. His family has heard nothing from Kul since March 24, according to the website.

Kul was arrested on terrorism charges in 2017, remained behind bars for 10 months and was released from prison pending trial five months ago. A travel ban was also imposed on the university student, which apparently forced him to seek illegal ways to get out of the country.

Kul’s mother, Ünzüle Araz, who also left Turkey for political reasons and is currently in Greece, said a person who was on the same boat as her son called her and said the boat had capsized. Araz said she reported the incident to the Greek police as well as Turkish security officials so that they could launch a search and rescue to find his son.

The mother said the Greek police have still not launched any efforts to find her son, adding that she would go on a hunger strike in front of the headquarters of Syriza, Greece’s ruling party, if a search does not begin immediately.

“My son was a young university student. They put him in jail. He was also barred from going to the university after his release. He had to choose this [illegal] way because he was facing a travel ban,” said Araz.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey through illegal means since a failed coup attempt in July 2016 following which the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. Most of these people are followers of the Gülen movement, which is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding the coup attempt.

The movement strongly denies any involvement.

During these risky journeys, mostly by way of the Maritsa River or from Turkey’s Aegean coast, tragedies have taken place and dozens of people have perished on their way to Greece in capsize incidents.

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