Austrian citizen detained at Turkish airport due to Facebook posts critical to Erdoğan

Photo: Florian Hitz / Kronen Zeitung

Ümit S, a Kurd born in Turkey holding Austrian citizenship, was banned from Turkey for five years for criticising Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Ankara’s Kurdish policy on Facebook, Kronen Zeitung reported on Thursday.

According to a report by Kurdistan 24, Ümit S, 32, was planning to go to his uncle’s funeral. But when he arrived at the airport with his girlfriend, the police were already waiting for him and arrested them both. They took his phone and extracted all its data.

In the end, they spent four days in jail before being deported. “Now, I am not allowed to enter [Turkey] for five years,” he said.

It was reported that Ümit S. shared critical German TV reports on the Kurdish policy of “Sultan Erdogan” on his personal Facebook. “There were no windows and miserable sanitary conditions. There were also families with children. Women and men were separated first. After one day, I was allowed to be in a cell with my girlfriend, because there was not enough space,” he said.

It is not the first time Turkey arrests foreign country citizens for critical social media posts. In early July, two British citizens Ayman Barzan and Hariam Barzan were arrested at the Dalaman airport for sharing Facebook posts in alleged support of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey labels both groups “terrorists.” The two brothers were in Turkey, planning to visit their sister. It is unclear if they are still under detention, or released.

However, not only critics of the Turkish government are detained. Austrian tourist Harold F, who was traveling to Turkey from Germany on June 29 on an emergency passport, was  detained for 27 hours. His original passport had been expired for six months. “I wanted to go to Bodrum with my family for a beach holiday and ended up in prison,” he said.

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