The human rights organization Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) has compiled the most comprehensive report to date on abductions and forced disappearances since 2016, the year when pressures against the opposition intensified, following an attempted coup that was swiftly blamed on the Gülen Movement. The report, titled “Beyond Turkey’s Borders: Unveiling Global Purge, Transnational Repression and Abductions,” meticulously addresses 156 documented cases during this period, revealing the chilling extent of state-backed repression that has become a daily reality in Turkey.
AST is one of the most influential human rights organizations actively recording human rights violations committed by the Turkish government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Their latest report focuses on appalling crimes against humanity, such as abduction, enforced disappearances, and torture. The report also highlights an existing climate of impunity in favor of the perpetrators of these crimes, indicating a systemic disregard for human rights and democratic values.
The report details how the abductions typically happen in broad daylight, with victims forcibly taken from public spaces by individuals identifying themselves as police. The kidnapped individuals, often high-ranking members or affiliates of the Gülen movement, vanish without a trace. Some victims go missing for months, even years. The report points to the chilling possibility, reminiscent of Turkey’s grim 1990s, that some of the victims may have been killed. Among those who have been missing for years are Sunay Elmas, Mustafa Özgür Gültekin, and Ayhan Oran, who disappeared in 2016. The prolonged absence of these individuals, coupled with the Turkish government’s continued silence on their whereabouts, raises fears that they may have been murdered.
Most victims report being subjected to severe torture upon eventual arrest by the police and subsequently being detained on terrorism charges. These allegations were levied against individuals like Gokhan Turkmen and Mustafa Yilmaz, who disappeared in 2019 and later resurfaced in police custody, bearing signs of prolonged physical and psychological torture. The report is replete with gory details of the abuses suffered by the victims, many of whom were educators affiliated with Gülen movement schools.
The report highlights that this systematic and premeditated strategy by the Turkish government aims to silence opposition voices. However, despite overwhelming evidence of abuses, the Turkish authorities systematically deny their existence. Notably, the report is comprehensive in its scope, detailing the plight of victims from both ends of the political spectrum, including cases of individuals from leftist groups like Ayten Öztürk.
In addition to enforced disappearances, notoriously associated with “black Transporter” vehicles used by the intel agency to abduct victims, the report also covers the abductions and renditions of dissenters from other countries. These international operations further demonstrate the global scale and audacity of the Turkish government’s campaign against perceived enemies.
The report also uncovers an extremely disturbing pattern of violation of detainees’ rights, including prolonged solitary confinement, limited access to lawyers and family, and a prohibition on contact with other prisoners. It further emphasizes the prevalence of unacceptable practices from a legal and human rights perspective, such as authorities pressuring detainees to withdraw complaints of torture and ill-treatment. These conditions have resulted in numerous detainees developing severe physical and psychological health issues, as well as leading to suicides in some cases.
The report emphasizes that Turkey’s actions are not merely a human rights violation; they also undermine international law and the sovereignty of affected countries. Despite repeated condemnation by the European Commission and the European Court of Human Rights, the report provides evidence of active involvement of Turkish intelligence officers in the abduction of regime opponents, both domestically and internationally.
In conclusion, the report calls on the international community to take a decisive stand in addressing the horrific human rights situation in Turkey. It appeals for comprehensive measures to hold the perpetrators accountable, provide support to the victims, and deter future violations. The AST underscores the urgency of this situation, asking the world to not turn a blind eye to these atrocities, lest they continue unabated.