Arab students face arbitrary detentions in Turkey

Arab students who have previously studied at universities shut down by the Turkish government in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, are being “detained and threatened with deportation” by Turkish police, according to a report by Al-Fanar Media news portal.

Al-Fanar media reporters have interviewed several Syrian and Yemeni students who have previously been detained, deported or turned back at the airport after leaving the country and trying to return

Mohammed al-Mashhari, one of the interviewees at the Yemeni Consulate in İstanbul, confirmed the arbitrary detentions and deportations of students. “Most Arab and international students who were previously studying at universities linked to Fethullah Gülen are under threat,” he told the news portal. “Students who haven’t been arrested yet are afraid of being detained or deported.”

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and his group.

Gülen strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it. President Erdoğan 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.

As part of the witch hunt, a total of 1,411 private educational institutions, 995 private dormitories, 1,326 foundations, 15 private universities, 31 labor unions, 733 university preparation courses, 70 private radio and TV stations and 109 newspapers, magazines and news agencies have so far been shut down.

Ibrahim Tawfiq Mohammed Anam, a Yemeni student, was detained by Turkish police on March 14 and held at a detention camp for foreigners in İzmir, his uncle told the news portal.

“Two days later, Faysal Bsata and Abdel Salam Salem, two Syrian students, were both also detained by Turkish security forces at the immigration office in Gaziantep, according to HarekAct, a platform that monitors Turkish treatment of migrants. Both students were at the center to renew their residence permits. Bsata was subsequently deported,” the news portal reported.

Anwar Abdu, uncle of the detained Yemeni student, said that Turkish authorities are putting pressure on his nephew and preparing to deport him. “He did not do anything wrong,” Abdu said.

Anam came to Turkey three-and-a-half years ago as a self-funded student. He started studying at Zirve University in Gaziantep, then moved to Gediz University in İzmir, so he could study electronic engineering in English. Later, he was one of hundreds of students who were transferred to other state universities after institutions suspected of being affiliated with Gülen movement were shut down. When Anam went to the Turkish immigration department to renew his residency, his request was denied. A few weeks later he was detained. “The Yemeni Embassy is trying to help; but he could still be forced to leave the country without completing his studies,” his uncle said.

The news portal also interviewed a female Yemeni student, who studied business at one of the universities affiliated with the Gülen movement three years ago. The name of the student was not released, but she said that she was studying at a legal university and when the government shut it down, she was transferred to another one.

She said that when she went to the immigration department in the Fatih district of İstanbul to update her residence permit, she was arrested and held in detention for two weeks, then deported to Yemen. ( May 12, 2017

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