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Teacher makes difficult journey from Libya to France to avoid forced return to Turkey

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İbrahim Karadağ, a Turkish teacher who worked at a school established by Gülen movement followers in Libya, said he had to endure multiple hardships during a long and difficult journey from Libya to Tunisia, Mexico and France to avoid forcible return to Turkey following a coup attempt there in 2016.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) label the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, as a terrorist organization and immediately blamed the group for the failed coup that took place on July 15, 2016.

Despite a strong denial from Gülen and the faith-based movement’s followers, Turkey removed over 130,000 civil servants from their jobs and arrested or detained nearly 80,000 people in addition to prosecuting more than 511,000 over suspected links to the self-exiled preacher.

Karadağ, who spoke to Bold Medya, had to take the long and difficult journey to avoid being one of more than 100 school personnel working at institutions linked to the Gülen movement abroad who have been either illegally abducted by Turkish agents or forcibly returned to Turkey by the authorities since the 2016 abortive putsch.

Traveling to Libya to study at the University of Tripoli in 2012, Karadağ also worked as a teacher at the Ömer Muhtar International School, established by Gülen movement followers and the first Turkish school in Libya.

Karadağ told the Bold Medya news website that he had endured all kinds of hardships studying and working in a country fresh from a war until five teachers from the Ömer Muhtar International School were arrested by Libyan soldiers and forcibly returned to Turkey a week after the 2016 attempted coup.

“The soldiers raided the school bearing guns as if we were terrorists. They took five teachers and kept them in a zoo that was turned into a jail after the war. We couldn’t find out where they were for one-and-a-half months,” he said, adding that that was when he decided to leave for Tunisia.

After the Turkish Embassy in Tunis prevented him from enrolling at Ez-Zitouna University in Montfleury and a few other schools, Karadağ decided to work in Tunisia instead and started selling ice cream, only to quit the job following attacks by Turkish students who called him a terrorist due to his Gülen links.

Karadağ says that was when he decided to travel to the United States through Mexico, but he ran into a different problem once he arrived in the country.

“Mexican authorities wanted to return me to Turkey once they saw the red stamp on my passport showing that I was prohibited from re-entering Tunisia. I told them they couldn’t, we started arguing, and I ended up in a cell so dirty that my eyes and ears got infected during the 36 hours I spent there.”

He was then sent back to Paris, from where he had traveled to Mexico, and spent 26 more days in a prison cell, where illegal immigrants were being kept before deportation.

Karadağ says he couldn’t even change his clothes because Mexican authorities had seized his luggage and that he lost partial sight due to the infection in his eye.

“An officer examined my papers for two hours every day, and I was then sent to a higher court. There were seven of us in that cell, and I was the only one the French authorities let out.”

Karadağ’s vision was reportedly restored after two operations, and he is currently working at a private school in Paris. He has also been accepted to do a master’s degree in Arabic at the Sorbonne.

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