An inflatable boat carrying 16 people affiliated with the Gülen movement en route to the Greek island of Lesbos in northwestern Turkey capsized on Sunday, with six people including three infants drowned, one person missing and nine rescued.
The group was trying to escape the persecution of the Turkish government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the boat was carrying 14 people and and two human smugglers.
The six people drowned after the boat sank off Çıplak Island in Balıkesir’s Ayvalık district, said Gökhan Görgülüarslan, the district governor. Nine others were rescued by the coastguard and one person is missing, added Görgülüarslan.
The three infants who drowned in the Aegean were identified as Y. Baha Aksoy, Burhan Yeni and Nurbanu Yeni; two women as Sümeyye Avcı and Sena Aksoy; and a man as Gürkan Yeni. It was also reported that among the people rescued are teachers, doctors and shopkeepers.
Hasan Aksoy, a teacher who was dismissed from his job by a government decree under a now-terminated state of emergency and lost his wife Sena Aksoy and his son Y. Baha Aksoy on Sunday in the Aegean Sea, was detained by police even before he was able to see the bodies of his loved ones. Aksoy was expected to be arrested by a court on Sunday over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Gülfem Yeni, the mother of 8-month-old Nurbanu Yeni and 2,5-year-old Burhan Yeni, who drowned on Sunday, was also detained by police. It was reported that Gülfem Yeni is going to be referred to court on Monday.
Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive post-coup witch-hunt carried out by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Many have tried to flee Turkey via illegal means as the government had cancelled the passports of thousands of people.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since the coup attempt in July 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.
“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organisation,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.
Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.
Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.