FİDH sends letter to Pakistan authorities concerning forcible repatriation of 289 Turkish citizens

Pakistani students and their families protested the illegal abductions of their Turkish teacher and his family.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), an international umbrella organization for human rights, has sent a letter to Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain, Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khan Abbasi and Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif concerning the possible forcible repatriation of 289 Turkish citizens who live in the country.

In a letter dated October 5, 2017, FIDH and its member organization, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, have expressed their deepest concern regarding the situation of 289 Turkish citizens currently located in Pakistan who face forcible repatriation to Turkey.

“The 289 Turkish citizens have faced forcible expulsion from Pakistan and repatriation to Turkey since 20 November 2016. Despite the suspension of the initial deportation order by the Pakistani courts, we understand that the Pakistani government is again considering their deportation. The 289 Turkish citizens are teachers associated with the Pak-Turk Schools, along with their families,” stated in the letter.

Underlining the fact that the 289 Turkish citizens are currently under protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), FIDH has said that “They have been granted ‘Asylum Seeker Certificates’, which specifically state that they should be protected from forcible return to a country where they claim to face threats to their life or freedom. These certificates are not due to expire until November 2017.”

The letter has continued as follow:

“The forcible repatriation of the 289 in breach of their UNHCR protection would likely expose them to the risk of persecution or other serious human rights abuses on the part of the Turkish authorities. The risk is particularly high in light of the climate of repression in Turkey following the July 2016 failed coup. The repression has targeted all voices critical of the government. Teachers, academics, human rights defenders, and journalists have been routinely subjected to arbitrary arrests and acts of judicial harassment, including investigations and prosecutions, on the grounds of their alleged links to the coup organizers. Credible allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against those who were arrested or detained also surfaced.

“As a result, their forcible repatriation would amount to a serious violation of international law. In particular, it would breach Pakistan’s obligations under Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which stipulates that ‘[n]o State Party shall expel, return (“refouler“) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.'”

By expressing their concern over the situation of Mesut Kaçmaz and his family, FİDH has stated that “We respectfully call on you to order the relevant authorities to guarantee the protection of the 289 Turkish citizens, and refrain from returning them to Turkey in contravention of Pakistan’s obligations under international law. We further call on you to demand the authorities continue to explore resettlement options for the 289 Turkish citizens to third countries that have a track record of upholding human rights and providing the necessary protection to asylum seekers.”

Turkish teacher Mesut Kaçmaz and his family, who were abducted from their home at a midnight in Lahore had been illegally detained in an unknown place in the city despite a habeas corpus decision by the Lahore High Court to locate and later deported to Turkey illegally.

Kaçmaz family, who were abducted from their home at a midnight in Lahore on September 27, were deported by Pakistani government to Turkey on early Saturday just two days before their scheduled appearance before a Pakistani court on Monday.

According to information given by the friends, Mesut Kaçmaz and his wife Meral Kaçmaz were reportedly transferred to Ankara for interrogation. They were blindfolded and boarded on an unmarked flight from Islamabad for İstanbul in the morning on October 14, 2017. It was learned that teenaged daughters of Kaçmaz Couple have not been detained and reportedly staying with a relative in İstanbul.

Kaçmaz Family has UNHCR certificate, which is valid for November 24, 2017. Moreover, Pakistan Office of UNHCR has already extended the period of certificate for 1 more year and the documents have already been delivered to other Turkish teachers in the country.

Mesut Kaçmaz, who graduated from the Department of Urdu Language and Literature in Konya’s Selçuk University in Turkey, has been involved educational and cultural activities in Pakistan since 2007. Mesut Kaçmaz, married to Meral Kaçmaz who is a teacher like himself, is the father of two daughters.

Mesut Kaçmaz worked as the principal of the PakTurk Clifton Boys School. The school has so far passed out hundreds of graduates and represented the country successfully by receiving medals at international science olympiads. Back in 2008, the New York Times covered the constructive role of the PakTurk schools and their achievements by quoting Mr. Kaçmaz.

The witch hunt launched in 2013 in Turkey targeting the alleged followers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a massive corruption and bribery scandal of Turkish government ministers and their family members on December 17-25, 2013 has even affected Pakistan. Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan put the pressure on the Pakistani government to close the educational and cultural institutions alleged to be affiliated with the movement and to deport the Turkish citizens working in these institutions.

In November 2016, the Pakistani government did not extend the visas of these teachers and their families and ordered them to leave the country within three days. Teachers moved courts and objected the decision. During this period, they also applied to the UNHCR and were issued asylum seeker certificates placing them under the UN protection.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, 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.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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