Time to act on enforced disappearances in Turkey
In blatant violation of national laws and an open defiance to its commitments under the international human rights laws, Turkish government under the oppressive regime of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has started again resorting to enforced disappearances and some unlawful abductions, a practice that is reminiscent of dark periods pf 1990s.
The abductions appear to have been perpetrated by elements linked to the Turkish government as part of an intimidation campaign targeting critics and opponents of Turkey’s president. Most victims in recent waves of kidnappings are believed to be affiliated with the Gülen movement which is inspired by the US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen who has been a vocal critic of Erdoğan on corruption and Turkish government’s aiding and abetting of Jihadist groups.
In one case confirmed by Stockholm Center for Freedom, an abductee was kept as a hostage and tortured for 42 days in an unknown location by men who identified themselves as police. Yet, he was later turned over to police for official custody and forced to sign a confession to a crime he said he had not committed. In many cases, the evidence such as CCTV footages by suggest a similar pattern by which a black Transporter Volkswagen was used in whisking away innocent people.
The government has never made any statement to these reports despite it was raised in the Parliament by an opposition lawmaker. Families of victims complain that prosecutors and police show indifference to their complaints and they claim that authorities are unwilling to investigate cases.
The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances criticized Turkey last year on these practices that are reminiscent of 1980s and 1990s during which many Kurds were abducted and believed to be killed by elements linked to the Turkish state. Their fates are still unknown as of today.
“Turkey needs to come to terms with past disappearances, and it needs to do so in a comprehensive manner,” said a delegation of the UN group following an official five-day visit that was held between 14 and 18 March 2016.
Over the years, the UN Working Group has transmitted 202 cases to Turkey, of which 79 are still outstanding. The cases with the Working Group mainly relate to disappearances occurred between 1992 and 1996 in the South-East.
Since the unlawful abduction by security services has made a comeback in Turkey with some dozen cases reported so far, SCF continues to urge Turkish government to halt this practice and advise international organizations to keep pressure on Turkey for a thorough investigation of these abductions and punishing perpetrators.
Here SCF will keep publishing the names of those who have gone missing because of suspected involvement by the elements of Turkey’s notorious security services.
SCF has also issued a comprehensive report on their cases in June report, which can be accessed from here (http://stockholmcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Enforced-Dissappearences-in-Turkey_22_June_2017.pdf)
Updated List (As of January 09, 2019)
|Name||Profession||Date of Disapperance||Current Status||Details|
|Sunay Elmas||27,01,2016||Missing||An Ankara resident named Sunay Elmas is also reported to have been abducted on Jan. 27, 2016 in Ankara CEPA shopping mall while he was returning from dropping his kids at home in Sincan district. Elmas had also been forced into a Volkswagen Transporter with tinted windows. His family has not heard from Elmas since then.|
|Ayhan Oran||Intel Officer||1,11,2017||Missing||Having started work at MİT in 2005, Ayhan Oran was dismissed over his alleged ties to the movement on Aug. 2 of last year.
He was last seen leaving the compound he was living in at 12:38 on Nov. 1, 2016. The signal on his cell was active only before 16:00 the same day. While he had no money in his pocket, he did not even bid farewell to his wife before he went out. Oran worked in Turkey’s Şırnak and Diyarbakır provinces as well as in Greece. Oran reportedly has the intimate knowledge on the assassination of three Kurdish activist women, Sakine Cansız, Fidan Doğan and Leyla Şaylemez in Paris on 9 January, 2013. The murders are alleged to have been perpetrated by the MİT.
|Mustafa Özgür Gültekin||Civil servant||21,12,2016||Missing||Mustafa Özgür Gültekin, a Competition Authority employee, was followed by at least four cars to a convenience store in Ankara’s Beştepe neighborhood at 18:15 on Dec. 21, 2016.
Immediately after Gültekin left the store, he was surrounded by a group of men who later forced him into a Volkswagen Transporter van with tinted windows.
Family members have so far managed to obtain nearby CCTV footage in which Gültekin was seen while being forced into the car.The family complained that police did not investigate the incident despite the footage showed clearly identifiable kidnappers from facial figures.
|Hüseyin Kötüce||IT technician||28,02,2017||Missing||Hüseyin Kötüce, an employee for the government-run Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK), was reportedly abducted at the parking lot of the Batıkent subway station in Ankara after he got off work on Feb 28, 2017. Family members found his winter coat and a cake he had bought in the back of Kötüce’s car, parked in the parking lot.
Despite successive requests, family members have so far failed to get police to carry out a fingerprint examination on the car, while no CCTV footage was collected from nearby locations overseeing the park.
|Mesut Geçer||Intel Officer||26,03,2017||Missing||Mesut Geçer worked at the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) until he was dismissed as part of the government’s post-coup crackdown.
His car was stopped and he was reportedly abducted in the Çakırlar quarter in Ankara’s Yenimahalle district, on March 26, 2017. His family members have been having difficulty even in submitting petitions to ask about Geçer’s whereabouts as officials often refuse to cooperate with them.
|Turgut Çapan||Director||31,03,2017||Missing||Turgut Çapan, a former employee of Turgut Özal University, which was shut down by the government over its alleged ties to the Gülen movement, was abducted on March 31, according to his wife Ülkü Çapan, who runs a Twitter account to speak up.
Ülkü Çapan released a video clip in which she explained the story in detail. She said a friend of her husband dropped by her home on April 1 to say that Turgut Çapan had been abducted.
Turgut Çapan was the head of the Culture, Sport and Art Affairs Department at the university until it was shut down by the government.
|Cengiz Usta||Teacher||4,04,2017||Missing||Cengiz Usta, a 44-year-old teacher in the district of Torbalı in Turkey’s western province İzmir was dismissed from his job by the government on September 1, 2016. He has been missing since April 4. Usta was a teacher at Cumhuriyet Primary School in Torbalı district.
“My brother left his daughter at home and went out to pay the elevator maintenance fee. He has not come back home yet. A witness claims that my brother was forced into a car by two men on Abdulkadir Street. This was recorded in police records as well,” the teacher’s elder brother, Selim Usta, told local media.
|Önder Asan||Teacher||1,04,2017||Located||Önder Asan (41), a philosophy teacher who was abducted in Turkish capital on a broad daylight in April and reported missing by his wife turned up in Ankara police department as traumatized and tortured 42 days later. He mysteriously disappeared in Ankara’s Şentepe neighborhood on April 1, prompting his wife to file a missing person report and pleading authorities to find her husband. Asan was working in a secondary school that the government shut down over its alleged links to the Gülen movement that is subject to unprecedented persecution in Turkey led by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
His wife, Fatma Asan, said she found her husband’s car parked near Şentepe with its tires slashed. Worried about well-being of her husband, she filed petitions with police and the prosecutor to investigate possible kidnapping. Yet authorities were reluctant to look into his case and they have not even bothered to check CCTV cameras around the neighborhood where the incident took place. She filed a criminal complaint with the public prosecutor’s office and launched a social media campaign appealing public to help her locate her husband. She was frustrated that nothing came out of her efforts.
On May 12, Fatma Asan received a phone call from Ankara police department that her husband was in detention in the Organized Crime and Smuggling Unit (KOM). She was very happy to learn that her husband is alive after 42 days of missing and rushed to the police station to see her husband. But she was denied from seeing her husband and told to come back a day later. Only the family lawyer was granted an access for 20 minutes.
According to Önder Asan, who was able to tell his abduction in a brief meeting with the lawyer, on the day of he went missing, he saw his car’s tires slashed in Şentepe neighborhood and had to take a cab to get to the place he planned to go. “On the way, the cab was cut-off by four vehicles on Vatan street. The people who came out of the cars said they are the police and forced him to get into Volkswagen Transporter van. I was blindfolded and beaten on the way to a place that I did not know. Then I was handcuffed and put in a cell. The torture went there for days,” he said.
“On May 12, I was put in a van blindfolded again. When we stopped, I was taken out of the van and they removed my blinds. I realized we were near Eymir Lake [some 20 kilometers south of Ankara city]. They called the Ankara police department and forced me to say on the phone “I am a Önder Asan, a member of Fethullah Terrorist Organization [FETÖ], I want to surrender myself. Please come in and take me in.” Then they compelled me to sign a paper stating that I wanted to take advantage of repentance law. Then the police officers came and picked me up”.
When Önder Asan was brought to the police station, he had great difficulty in standing and walking. He barely walked to the room to meet his lawyer by holding unto the walls. Although the police was present during his brief meeting with the lawyer, he had the courage to tell some parts of his story and asked for a treatment. “My psychological well being is so terrible,” he told the lawyer.
Burak Çolak, a lawyer representing Önder Asan, was also detained for rejecting to sign a false testimony prepared by the police on behalf of his client Asan after he was handed over to the police by thugs who tortured him for 42 days. Police tried to force the lawyer to sign the document that included a false testimony by his client. He was later released after a detention.
|Fatih Kılıç||Teacher||14,05,2017||Missing||Fatih Kılıç, a teacher who was dismissed from his job under post-coup emergency rule, went mission on May 14, 2017 in Turkish capital. He has not been located anywhere since the last CCTV footage he appeared in shows him getting into a vehicle bound for Ankara’s Kızılay district.
“My husband is a victim of a post-coup government decree. He has been unemployed for seven months. We have no source of income. We depend on assistance from our families. I was together with my husband and four children on May 14. We had a lovely Sunday. Then we prepared for our trip. He took us to AŞTİ (Ankara bus terminal) in the evening. I was going to visit my grandparents along with my kids. He was to join us after a while. He left us, waving goodbye at around 22.50,” Fatih Kılıç’s wife Nihal Kılıç wrote in a series of tweets on May 19, 2017.
|Mustafa Özben||Lawyer||9,05,2017||Missing||Mustafa Özben, a lawyer, was reported missing on May 9, 2017. His wife Emine posted a video of herself on Twitter with her 5-month-old baby and her mother, asking for a help from authorities.
“I am a housewife. My husband is a Bar registered lawyer. He is a legal expert and an educator at the same time. My husband has not been home since he took our daughter to school on Tuesday, May 9. The following day I went to the police, gendarmerie and many other places, but I came away with nothing. We have three daughters, aged 5 months, 4 years and 10 years. Every day they ask me where their dad is. I cannot give them an answer. Please help us in the name of humanity,” Emine said before bursting into tears. “I am concerned for his life,” she added.
|Durmuş Ali Çetin||Police officer||17,05,2017||Missing||Durmuş Ali Çetin, a police officer who was earlier dismissed from his job with a post-coup emergency degree, has been missing for the past five days with his family concerned about the security of his life. His family has not heard from Çetin since he left home Wednesday morning.
The father of three moved to Afşin district of Turkey’s eastern province Kahramanmaraş after he was dismissed from his post in İstanbul over his alleged links with the Gülen movement 7 months ago. Suffering from financial and physiological problems since he lost his job, Çetin went outside five days ago, leaving his cell phone back home. Family members are mobilized to track down Çetin’s trail, voicing concern over his life.
(Durmuş Ali Çetin, was found dead at his home in İstanbul on Saturday (19.08.2017), apparently having committed suicide. It was reported that Çetin fell into a depression after he had difficulty repaying a loan he secured to buy the house in İstanbul.)
|Cemil Koçak||Engineer||15,06,2017||Missing||Cemil Koçak, an engineer who was dismissed from a government position at Turkey’s Agriculture Ministry over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, was abducted according to the Twitter account that is reportedly managed by his wife.
Koçak’s car was followed by four cars (a black and a white Ford Focus, a VW Transporter van and a Fiat Doblo) at around 5:30 pm near his home in Ankara’s Altındağ district on June 15, 2017. One of those cars hit Koçak’s own car to stop him in the middle of the day and he was forced into the black van just before the eyes of his 8-year-old son, the Twitter account said.
The abduction took place in a blind spot not covered by any of the four CCTV cameras in the area, according to the account. The wife also posted some photos from CCTV footages that showed the cars in pursuit before the kidnapping.
|Murat Okumus||Accountant||16,06,2017||Missing||Murat Okumuş, a 40-year-old accountant who was a director at the government-closed Şifa University Hospital in İzmir province, was abducted.
Okumuş was the operations director at İzmir-based Şifa University Hospital, shuttered over its alleged links to the Gülen movement.
“We haven’t heard from my son Murat Okumuş since 6 pm on June 16, 2017. Born in 1977, he is an accountant and he has two kids from his marriage. Loyal to his country and family, he is a successful and honest family guy,” a Twitter account claiming to belong to Murat Okumuş’s father said.
|Ümit Horzum||Assistant specialist at TURKAK||06,12,2017||Missing||Ümit Horzum, a Turkish citizen who was dismissed from his duty at the Turkish Accreditation Agency (TURKAK) by a government decree on August 2016 under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, was reportedly abducted in Ankara by unidentified person or persons.
Horzum was sought by police after a detention warrant was issued for him over his alleged links to the Gülen movement. However, he has not surrendered to police because of his fear of widespread and systematic torture in detention. Horzum has reportedly not stayed at his home for a long time since he has been afraid of detention.
Eventually, a friend of the family has informed a few days ago that Ümit Horzum was abducted near Ankara A City Shopping Center at 6 p.m. on December 6, 2017. Afterwards, his wife’s efforts to learn the place, where he is kept, have given no result.
It was reported that Horzum’s wife has applied to police department, gendarmerie and prosecutor’s offices to get information about him and to check if he was detained. However, she could not find any trace of his husband.
After learning that there is no detention registration about her husband, Horzum’s wife applied to a gendarmerie station near her house and informed the authorities that his husband was abducted. A Gendarmerie Commander has reportedly warned her to give up looking after her husband and stated that “No good can come to you from him. He is a wanted man with a charge of life imprisonment over being an executive in a terror organisation.” The same commander has reportedly registered the application as “missing” instead of “abduction.”
After this scandal Horzum’s wife has intended to make a legal complaint. However none of the prosecutors have reportedly accepted her application. Eventually, a prosecutor has accepted her legal complaint with a condition that she will give up tracing her husband. The prosecutor has also refused to give her an application registration number.
Horzum’s wife has stated that her husband has not had even a simple investigation until he was dismissed from his duty by the government under the rule of emergency. On the basis of indifference of authorities Horzum’s wife, a mother of two children, has shared the situation in her social media account and demanded help from politicians and sensitive circles.
Horzum’s wife has stated in series of tweets in her Twitter account on Wednesday that: “I haven’t heard from my husband Ümit Horzum since Wednesday, Dec 6, 2017, 6 pm. …Following media reports on tortured detainees, my husband was scared and he left home to hide. …A short while after leaving, gendarmerie came to our home to detain him. …He was not staying at home since then. A few days ago, one of his friends stopped by to say that his car was stopped and that he was abducted by force. [His friend] left without answering any further question.”
“For whole week, I have been frequenting every hospital, police station, courtroom and gendarmerie station to find my husband. …The gendarmerie sergeant told me: ‘Stop trying to find him. He is a [terror] group leader who is going to be sentenced to jail in prison. He is up to no good for you’”
“Some officials say: ‘The government has probably taken him,’ backing up their assumptions with journalist Cem Küçük’s remarks on TV. …I am a mother of two, my children are constantly crying to ask for their father.”
|Enver Kılıç||Teacher||30,09,2017||Missing||Turkish national Enver Kılıç was reportedly abducted from a plane by a group of unknown people in Kazakh city of Almaty.
Social media accounts familiar with the issue supposed that Enver Kılıç had links with the Gülen movement. President Erdogan has already called on foreign governments to punish alleged followers of the Gülen movement in their own countries.
Kılıç disappeared while he was on his way back to Kyrgyzistan along with another Turkish national, Zabit Kişi, also missing in the same way.
A group of countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia, Pakistan and Myanmar have so far handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request even though some of those victims had refugee status with the UN.
|Zabit Kişi||Teacher||30,09,2017||Arrested||Turkish national Zabit Kişi was reportedly abducted from a plane by a group of unknown people in Kazakh city of Almaty, his wife said in a recent video recording during which she also expressed concerns over Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s long arm abroad.
Social media accounts familiar with the issue supposed that Zabit Kişi had links with the Gülen movement. President Erdogan has already called on foreign governments to punish alleged followers of the Gülen movement in their own countries.
Zabit Kişi disappeared while he was on his way back to Kyrgyzistan along with another Turkish national, Enver Kılıç, also missing in the same way.
A group of countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia, Pakistan and Myanmar have so far handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request even though some of those victims had refugee status with the UN.
|Orçun Şenyücel||Public employee||21,04,2018||Missing||Orçun Şenyücel, a former public employee who was dismissed from his job at the Competition Authority in 2016, has been abducted by an unknown group of people, according to one of his parents.
“My son Orçun ŞENYÜCEL who was dismissed under a post-coup government decree in 2016, was abducted after being forced into a black Transporter [van] in Ankara’s Turkkonut district at 00.04 on April 21, 2018,” a Twitter account believed to be that of his parent said.
“My son was only a dismissed public employee. He has never been tried or convicted of any charges. I am worried for his life, help me,” said the tweet.
Video footage believed to show Şenyücel’s abduction was shared by the same Twitter account on Monday.
Şenyücel, a father of two, worked as an expert at the Competition Authority until his dismissal over alleged links to the Gülen movement, which the Turkish government accuses of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016. The group denies any involvement.
|Hasan Kala||Academician||21,07,2018||Missing||Hasan Kala, an academician who was dismissed from his post from Çankırı Karatekin University by a government decree under the state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 over his alleged links to the Gülen movement, was reportedly abducted by an unknown group of people.
Associated Professor Kala was abducted after being forced into a black Transporter [van] in Ankara’s Batıkent district at 11.30 pm on July 21, 2018.
|Fahri Mert||12,08,2018||Missing||Fahri Mert (44), abducted in İzmir province by a black Transporter van. A group of people who reportedly introduced themselves as police officers kidnapped Mert after they said, “We will take you to the security directorate,” following his detention at home. His family and friends have been unable to get any information about Mert’s whereabouts since the incident.|
|Ahmet Ertürk||Teacher||Nov. 16, 2018||Found||Ahmet Ertürk, a teacher who was abducted and missing since Nov. 16, 2018 was found in Ankara Police Department.
Ertürk’s wife announced on Twitter on January 08, 2019, saying her husband is being questioned by the police for five days.
It was reported that with the abduction of Ertürk, police raided his parents’ house in Ankara. Ertürk was formerly a teacher at a school run by the Gülen movement, that was shut down by the government.
|Gökhan Türkmen||Civil Servant||Feb 06, 2019||Missing||Forty-two-year-old Gökhan Türkmen, a civil servant dismissed from his job during a state of emergency declared after an abortive coup on July 15, 2016, is believed to have been abducted on Feb. 6. According to his family, Türkmen was hiding from persecution and torture after his house was raided by heavily armed counterterrorism police in his absence in August 2016.|
|Salim Zeybek||Tecnician||Feb 21, 2019||Arrested||Zeybek was abducted by armed men in the Turkish province of Edirne on the evening of Feb. 21, 2019 while travelling with his wife and children.
On July 26, 2019 The Ankara police called the family of Salim Zeybek, stating that he was in police custody due to an investigation into the Gülen movement.
Zeybek was later arrested and sent to the prison on August 10, 2019.
|Yasin Ugan||Accountant||Feb 13, 2019||Arrested||Özgür Kaya and Yasin Ugan (see below), both of Ankara, were reportedly abducted by armed men from their apartment building, with police saying they have no information on their whereabouts. However, Turkish journalist Cevheri Güven discovered that the Ankara Police Department filed a report on the abduction of the two men earlier this month while at the same time denying any knowledge of the incident or their whereabouts.
On July 26, 2019 The Ankara police called the family of Yasin Ugan, stating that he was in police custody due to an investigation into the Gülen movement.
Ugan was later arrested and sent to the prison on August 10, 2019.
|Özgür Kaya||Teacher||Feb 13, 2019||Arrested||Özgür Kaya and Yasin Ugan, both of Ankara, were reportedly abducted by armed men from their apartment building, with police saying they have no information on their whereabouts. However, Turkish journalist Cevheri Güven discovered that the Ankara Police Department filed a report on the abduction of the two men earlier this month while at the same time denying any knowledge of the incident or their whereabouts.
On July 26, 2019 The Ankara police called the family of Özgür Kaya, stating that he was in police custody due to an investigation into the Gülen movement.
Kaya was later arrested and sent to the prison on August 10, 2019.
|Erkan Irmak||Teacher||Feb 16, 2019||Arrested||Erkan Irmak, 43, was reportedly kidnapped in front of his house in İstanbul on the night of Feb. 16, 2019 and his family has been unable to reach him since.
On July 26, 2019 The Ankara police called the family of Erkan Irmak, stating that he was in police custody due to an investigation into the Gülen movement.
Irmak was later arrested and sent to the prison on August 10, 2019.
|Mustafa Yılmaz||Physiotherapist||Feb 19, 2019||Missing||Mustafa Yılmaz was reportedly kidnapped in Ankara when he left his home on February 19, 2019. Yılmaz was sentenced to 6,5 years in prison. He was released pending appeal in January 2019 after serving 100 days in prison.|
|Yusuf Bilge Tunç||Civil Servant||Aug 6, 2019||Missing||Yusuf Bilge Tunç, a former civil servant who was fired from Turkey’s Defense Ministry, has been missing since August 6, 2019 according to the family.
The vehicle that Yusuf Bilge Tunc used was found in Çamlıca neighbourhood of Ankara.