Enforced disappearances must be investigated by an independent committee, said Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a human rights defender and deputy from the Republican People’s Party, ANKA news agency reported on Sunday.
Tanrıkulu said enforced disappearances, which were common in Turkey during the 1990s, began to resurface after a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. “Many people disappeared without a trace or were kidnapped and later dropped off somewhere during the ’90s. We are currently witnessing similar incidents, in particular targeting members of the Gülen movement,” he said.
In the 1990s, at the height of an armed conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States, enforced disappearances particularly targeted members of Turkey’s Kurdish minority. After some progress thanks to the improvement of the human rights situation in Turkey in the 2000s, enforced disappearance started to reemerge following the coup attempt.
According to Tanrıkulu, there have been 1,352 known enforced disappearances since 1980. He said authorities needed to take immediate steps to counter such incidents and to stop them once and for all.
“Authorities must investigate the fate of those people who have disappeared and find them,” he said. “They must also look into the unsolved murders of dissidents and find the perpetrators.”
Tanrıkulu said the government had the responsibility to open its archives and channel its resources to solve these cases and exhume the bodies of unidentified people if necessary.
Tanrıkulu emphasized the importance of investigating and confronting the past in order to stop enforced disappearances in the future.
Nearly 30 people have been abducted by Turkish intelligence since 2016. Most of the abductions targeted members of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. Many of the abductees mysteriously reappeared in police custody in Ankara after six to nine-month absences.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding.
Enforced disappearances have targeted dissidents not only in Turkey but also abroad.
According to a piece published by The New York Times’ editorial board on Saturday, Erdoğan “has openly cast a broad global net for his foes since a coup attempt in July 2016, using both legal and illegal means.”
In a recent report titled “Turkey: Transnational Repression Case Study,” Freedom House said it was able to identify 58 people rendered from 17 countries.