Turkish citizens’ abduction sparks panic in South Africa: report

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The recent abduction of a teacher by Turkish government operatives in Kenya and the suspicious disappearance of an educator in Kyrgyzstan have sent shivers among Turkish immigrants living in South Africa, the Citizen reported.

According to Eric Naci, political editor of the Citizen, they fear being kidnapped and sent back home to face arbitrary arrest and prison.

Selahaddin Gülen, a nephew living in Kenya of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, was brought back to Turkey by agents from Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) in May. Then, he was arrested on June 5 by an Ankara court on charges of “managing an armed terrorist organization.”

Orhan İnandı, the founder and president of the Turkish-Kyrgyz Sapat school network operating in Kyrgyzstan, went missing in Bishkek on the evening of May 31 and is feared to have been abducted by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization due to his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

İnandı’s  wife, Reyhan İnandı, said in a June 6 statement that an undisclosed source told her that her husband was being held against his will at the Turkish Embassy, and she claimed he was being tortured to renounce his Kyrgyz citizenship. This would simplify İnandı’s forcible transfer to Turkey, she said.

“What happened in Kenya and Kyrgyzstan has left us traumatised because we don’t know when they will strike and abduct one of us,” said a member of the small Turkish community in South Africa.

A Turkish immigrant, Dr Aydın İnal, director of the Turquoise Harmony Institute in the Western Cape, said: “Given the history of Turkish intelligence, it is not unthinkable that they could do more serious things, including targeting of individuals in the Gulen Movement [in South Africa].”

Turkish intelligence has intensified its efforts to target dissidents abroad.

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.

In a number of cases the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) concluded that the arrest, detention and forced transfer to Turkey of Turkish nationals were arbitrary and in violation of international human rights norms and standards.

A recent report by Freedom House on global transnational repression also revealed the intensity, geographic reach and suddenness of the Turkish government’s campaign targeting dissidents abroad, noting that Turkey has become number one among countries that have conducted renditions from host states since 2014.

According to the report, Ankara’s campaign has primarily targeted people affiliated with the Gülen movement, but the government has started applying the same tactics to Kurdish and leftist individuals living abroad.

The Freedom House report also indicated that the Turkish government has pursued its perceived enemies in at least 30 host countries spread across the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia since a 2016 coup attempt.

According to official statements by its interior ministry, Turkey has sent 800 extradition requests to 105 countries since the attempt, and more than 110 alleged members of the movement have been brought back to Turkey as part of the government’s global campaign.

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