97 detained near Georgian border as thousands try to flee Turkey’s witch hunt

At least 97 people have been detained over the past 4 months while they were attempting to escape from Turkey’s post-coup witch hunt to Georgia. Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government against the country’s dissidents and the sympathizers of the Gülen movement in particular since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkish nationals, under normal circumstances, are able to enter Georgia with only their national IDs in accordance with a visa-free travel agreement between the two countries.

Dozens of people have also been detained near Turkey’s Greek borders in the recent past as citizens try to escape from ever increasing pressure at home to any country they could get into legally or illegally.


Meanwhile, at least 25 teachers who were earlier dismissed from their jobs were detained as part of an investigation into the Gülen movement on Sunday. Detention warrants were issued for 31 teachers in four Kahramanmaraş, Hatay, Mersin and Adıyaman provinces while police have yet to locate the remaining 6. Also, 6 teachers were arrested as part of a separate investigation in Niğde province. The detainees were reportedly dismissed from profession with recent decrees issued by Turkish government in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

All suspects are accused of having used ByLock mobile application. Turkish authorities believe ByLock is a communication tool between members of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of civil servants, police officers and businessmen have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since a failed coup attempt last July.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the coup “a great gift of God” and pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, 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.

About 130,000 people have been purged from state bodies, 92,000 detained and 45,000 arrested since the coup attempt. Arrestees include journalists, judges, prosecutors, police and military officers, academics, governors and a comedian.

Feb. 26, 2017

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