The president of a Turkish school network in Kyrgyzstan suddenly goes missing, shortly after an evening meeting at a café with a disgraced former minister and “friend” who left the country shortly thereafter. His car was found abandoned, with doors ajar and tires flattened and valuables left inside. The educator had refused a nighttime security detail recommended by the government since he had lived in Kyrgyzstan for 20 years and felt himself safe there. He hasn’t been heard from since May 31 and is believed to be held captive at the Turkish Embassy in Bishkek by Turkey’s spy agency, apparently the intended subject of a rendition to his home country as some 100 other Turkish nationals considered “enemies” of the state have been. His wife believes he is being tortured in an attempt to force him to renounce his acquired Kyrgyz citizenship, a legal barrier for Turkey simply removing him from the country.
So what is the Turkish government to do with Orhan İnandı?
They can’t get him out of the embassy to a private aircraft reportedly waiting at the airport in Bishkek due to the constant vigil of protestors demanding his release. They can’t let him live in the embassy forever, nor can they continue to bar all cars from entering and exiting the compound.
So could İnandı just “disappear” permanently, as happened to Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi, who entered the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul in 2018 and never left, brutally assassinated and dismembered by a murder team sent from Riyadh?
Turkey has been relentless in its pursuit, both at home and abroad, of alleged members of the Gülen movement — with which İnandı is affiliated — a faith-based group inspired by cleric Fethullah Gülen, a vocal critic of the current regime in Ankara led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Kyrgyz authorities should investigate the disappearance of İnandı amid concern that he may be forcibly deported to Turkey, Human Rights Watch said in a statement on June 9, adding that if returned to Turkey, İnandı could be at risk of mistreatment or torture and would face arbitrary detention and an unfair trial.
A recent report by Freedom House on global transnational repression indicated that the Turkish government has pursued its perceived enemies in at least 30 countries spread across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia since a 2016 coup attempt, noting that Turkey has become number one among countries that have conducted renditions since 2014.
In a joint letter UN rapporteurs accused the Turkish government of engaging in the systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible returns to Turkey, with at least 100 Turkish nationals from multiple states including Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Gabon, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Pakistan removed to Turkey.
Protests have taken place in Berlin, London and Brussels as well as Bishkek in support of the Turkish educator, demanding his release. The United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on Turkey to promptly take all measures necessary to establish the whereabouts of İnandı and said the government should ensure that İnandı would not be subjected to torture and inhuman treatment, guarantee his physical and mental integrity and immediately place him under the protection of the law.
So the world is watching Turkey in this pivotal moment. Will it, due to the international backlash it is has sparked, allow İnandı to reappear as if he had simply wandered off on his own? Will it try to outlast the protestors outside the embassy and ultimately render him from Kyrgyzstan to Turkey, where he faces imprisonment and almost certain torture? Or will İnandı never reemerge from the embassy, like Jamal Khashoggi, murdered by a dictatorial regime, with no trace of him ever to be found.
The world is watching and waiting, Turkey. Your move.