A philosophy teacher who was abducted in Turkish capital on a broad daylight in April and reported missing by his wife turned up in Ankara police department as traumatized and tortured 42 days later.
Önder Asan (41) mysteriously disappeared in Ankara’s Şentepe neighborhood on April 1, promoting his wife to file a missing person report and pleading authorities to find her husband. Asan was working in a secondary school that the government shut down over its alleged links to the Gülen movement that is subject to unprecedented persecution in Turkey led by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Fatma Asan said she found her husband’s car parked near Şentepe with its tires slashed. Worried about well-being of her husband, she filed petitions with police and the prosecutor to investigate possible kidnapping. Yet authorities were reluctant to look into his case and they have not even bothered to check CCTV cameras around the neighborhood where the incident took place. She filed a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor’s office and launched a social media campaign appealing public to help her locate her husband. She was frustrated that nothing came out of her efforts.
On May 12, Fatma Asan received a phone call from Ankara police department that her husband was in detention in the Organized Crime and Smuggling Unit (KOM). She was very happy to learn that her husband is alive after 42 days of missing and rushed to the police station to see her husband. But she was denied from seeing her husband and told to come back a day later. Only the family lawyer was granted an access for 20 minutes.
According to Önder Asan, who was able to tell his abduction in a brief meeting with the lawyer, on the day of he went missing, he saw his car’s tires slashed in Şentepe neighborhood and had to take a cab to get to the place he planned to go. “On the way, the cab was cut-off by four vehicles on Vatan street. The people who came out of the cars said they are the police and forced him to get into Volkswagen Transporter van. I was blindfolded and beaten on the way to a place that I did not know. Then I was handcuffed and put in a cell. The torture went there for days,” he said.
“On May 12, I was put in a van blindfolded again. When we stopped, I was taken out of the van and they removed my blinds. I realized we were near Eymir Lake [some 20 kilometers south of Ankara city]. They called the Ankara police department and forced me to say on the phone “I am a Önder Asan, a member of Fethullah Terrorist Organization [FETÖ], I want to surrender myself. Please come in and take me in.” Then they compelled me to sign a paper stating that I wanted to take advantage of repentance law. Then the police officers came and picked me up”.
When Önder Asan was brought to the police station, he had great difficulty in standing and walking. He barely walked to the room to meet his lawyer by holding unto the walls. Although the police was present during his brief meeting with the lawyer, he had the courage to tell some parts of his story and asked for a treatment. “My psychological well being is so terrible,” he told the lawyer.
Since the detention period officially started on May 12, it is not known how long the police will keep him in custody. His wife and their three kids are anxiously waiting for him to be released and join the family.
It appears Fatma Asan’s social media campaign by opening a Twitter account to tell her heartbreaking story paid off, forcing clandestine groups operating with the approval and knowledge of the government in abduction of critics and dissidents to turn the abductee to police station and process him officially. However, it took 42 days for her to make a progress in her husband’s case. He appealed Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu and Ankara governor Ercan Topaca on Twitter by mentioning their names. None of them bothered to respond to her pleas.
On May 10, frustrated Fatma Asan wrote on Twitter that “I’ve applied to all official agencies of the government since April 3 but I have received no positive response. I petitioned to BİMER and CİMER [complaint hotlines for citizens to lodge grievances with the office of the Prime Ministry and Presidency respectively] but no response came.”
Faced with uncooperative and unresponsive authorities, Fatma Asan had worked like a detective in tracing footsteps of her husband on the day he went missing. She went to the building her husband was present before he was abducted but the building manager refused to share CCTV footage with her, but told her the husband’s exact exit time. She appealed to the business owners nearby to share their security video footage so that she can track Önder Asan’s movements. None of them agreed to share CCTV recordings without police instructions.
While she was scouting the area to convince shop owners to show her footage from the day and time of Önder Asan’s missing, she spotted the family car with tires slashed some 300 meters away from the building her husband last attended. She was convinced that her husband was abducted nearby to his car which was parked next to the parking lot for city busses. Police and prosecutors were unwilling to cooperate with her in obtaining CCTV footages. She and her lawyer filed a petition with the public prosecutor’s office to seize CCTV recording from shop owners near the area where Önder Asan’s abduction took place. But all the prosecutors they applied refused to process their application. She said she vowed to fight until the end for police and prosecutors’ to be held accountable for neglecting their duties and refusing to process her application.
Her case attracted the attention of the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu who submitted a question motion in parliament on April 25, 2017, asking Prime Minister Yıldırım about the fate of seven people reportedly abducted in Ankara. Tanrıklulu said the all seven people were dismissed by the government-decree from their jobs, and according to witness accounts, all of them were kidnapped in a black Transporter van by people who are identifiable from the CCTV footages.
He said unwillingness of police and prosecutors in investigating these cases and their refusal to accept criminal complaints against kidnappers suggest these people are linked to security agencies of the government. He asked Prime Minister Yıldırım whether the government investigated the vehicle and find out to whom or which institution it was registered to. He said if there was no probe launched, what was the reason for not investigating these kidnappings.
Mysterious disappearances involving already-victimized opposition groups have become a common occurrence in Turkey in the last eight months, with at least eight cases of alleged abduction incidents documented by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF).
Those not seen for quite some time all have in common in their personal histories that they have lost their jobs amid a sweeping crackdown that the Turkish government has conducted against its critics, particularly alleged members of the Gülen movement that is inspired by interfaith dialogue advocate Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen who resides in the US. Gülen was declared as enemy in December 2013 by President Erdoğan when Gülen has become outspoken critic lambasting Erdoğan for engaging in billions of dollars in government corruption and for aiding and abetting Jihadist groups to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
CCTV footage and passersby witnessing the alleged abductions show that at least two of them (separately) were forced into cars by unknown groups of people. On January 10, 2017, the left-wing Turkish newspaper Evrensel reported that Zeynep Tunçel, a reader and distributor, was abducted in İzmir and beaten by four unidentified people who accused her of resisting the government. She was taken to a remote place in a hill area and let go after she got beaten and abused by her kidnappers.
Other cases of abductions and missing persons that are alleged to have linked to security services in Turkey are as follows:
CENGİZ USTA: MISSING SINCE APRIL 4, 2017
Cengiz Usta, a 44-year-old teacher in İzmir province who was dismissed from his job by a state of emergency decree, has been missing since April 4, joining two below-mentioned education professionals who are claimed to have been abducted the same week.
Usta was a teacher at Cumhuriyet Primary School in İzmir’s Torbalı district until he was dismissed by government decree on Sept. 1, 2016.
“My brother left his daughter at home and went out to pay the elevator maintenance fee. He has not come back home yet. A witness claims that my brother was forced into a car by two men on Abdulkadir Street. This was recorded in police records as well,” the teacher’s elder brother, Selim Usta, told local media.
TURGUT ÇAPAN, MISSING SINCE MARCH 31, 2017
Turgut Çapan, a former employee of Turgut Özal University, which was shut down by the government over its alleged ties to the Gülen movement, was abducted on March 31, according to his wife Ülkü Çapan, who runs a popular Twitter account to speak up.
Ülkü Çapan also released a video clip in which she explained the story in detail. She said a friend of her husband dropped by her home on April 1 to say that Turgut Çapan had been abducted.
Turgut Çapan was the head of the Culture, Sport and Art Affairs Department at the university until it was shut down by the government, according to Mahmut Özpınar, a former academic at the now-closed Turgut Özal University.
MESUT GEÇER, MISSING SINCE MARCH 26, 2017
Mesut Geçer worked at the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) until he was dismissed as part of the government’s post-coup crackdown.
His car was stopped and he was reportedly abducted in the Çakırlar quarter in Ankara’s Yenimahalle district, on March 26, 2017.
According to Aktif Haber, his family members have been having difficulty even in submitting petitions to ask about Geçer’s whereabouts as officials often refuse to cooperate with them.
HÜSEYİN KÖTÜCE, MISSING SINCE FEB. 28, 2017
Hüseyin Kötüce, a BTİK employee, was reportedly abducted at the parking lot of the Batıkent subway station in Ankara after he got off work on Feb 28, 2017. Family members found his coat and a cake he had bought in Kötüce’s car, parked in the parking lot.
Despite successive requests, family members have so far failed to get police to carry out a fingerprint examination on the car, while no CCTV footage was released.
MUSTAFA ÖZGÜR GÜLTEKİN, MISSING SINCE DEC. 21, 2016
Mustafa Özgür Gültekin, a Competition Authority employee, was followed by at least four cars to a convenience store in Ankara’s Beştepe neighborhood at 18:15 on Dec. 21, 2016.
Immediately after Gültekin left the store, he was surrounded by a group of men who later forced him into a Volkswagen Transporter van with tinted windows.
Family members have so far managed to obtain nearby CCTV footage in which Gültekin was seen while being forced into the car.
AYHAN ORAN, MISSING SINCE NOV. 1, 2017
Having started work at MİT in 2005, Ayhan Oran was dismissed over his alleged ties to the movement on Aug. 2 of last year.
He was last seen leaving the compound he was living in at 12:38 on Nov. 1 of last year. The signal on his cell was active only before 16:00 the same day. While he had no money in his pocket, he did not even bid farewell to his wife before he went out, Sözcü columnist Saygı Öztürk said.
Oran worked in Turkey’s Şırnak and Diyarbakır provinces as well as in Greece.
SUNAY ELMAS, MISSING SINCE JAN. 27, 2016
An Ankara resident named Sunay Elmas is also reported to have been abducted on Jan. 27, 2016. Aktif Haber said Elmas had also been forced into a Volkswagen Transporter with tinted windows. His family has not heard from Elmas since then.
Erdoğan’s Islamist government has labeled the Gülen movement as “FETÖ,” a derogatory term and acronym for the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization.” However, the Gülen movement is inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen, who has been advocating science education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and community contribution. The movement promotes a moderate version of Islam with a heavy emphasis on public service. The movement runs schools and universities in 180 countries.
Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 2 that 47,155 people have been jailed over alleged links to the Gülen Movement since July 15, 2016. According to Soylu, 113,260 people have also been detained on the same accusation. On May 6, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen Movement.
May 14, 2016