Former Turkish director of Pak-Turk school, his family kidnapped from Lahore

Mesut Kaçmaz and his family.

Former director of Pak-Turk School, Mesut Kaçmaz, a Turkish national, has reportedly been kidnapped along with his family in the early hours of Wednesday from Pakistani city of Lahore, reported by Daily Pakistan news outlet on Wednesday.

It was reported that Kaçmaz and his family have been staying in Wapda Town, Lahore on a asylum seeker certificate of United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) for a year after the Pakistani authorities in November 2016 directed the Turkish staff of the schools to leave Pakistan on the request of Turkey.

Turkish Ambassador to Pakistan Sadık Babür Girgin had said that the schools were linked with Fatehullah Gulen, a US-based cleric, who is being accused of plotting attempted July’s coup in Turkey by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Another Turkish teacher, Fatih Avcı, who had also been abducted and released later, said that the incident took place at 2:10am on Wednesday. Avcı has said that he did not know where they have been taken as their faces were covered with some kind of bags.

In a written statement released by Fatih Avcı it was said that: “I am Fatih Avcı, a Turkish language teacher by profession and currently an asylum seeker placed under the protection of the UNHCR since November 2016. I live upstairs from Mr. Mesut Kaçmaz and his family. Mr. Mesut Kaçmaz is a colleague and we both hold UNHCR asylum seeker certificates along with our families.

On Wednesday, September 27, 2017 at 2:10 am, I heard a commotion downstairs at our house located at 461, E2 Block, Wapda Town, Lahore. I rushed down and witnessed that the door to Mr. Mesut’s portion was open and there were about 15 plain clothed `police officers’ inside. Out of fifteen, five were lady constables. They did not conduct any search-and-seize procedure, nor did they turn the house upside down.

In this old photo Mesut Kacmaz, principal of a PakTurk school in a poor neighborhood of Karachi, and his wife, Meral Kaçmaz are seen in their home.
(Credit Carolyn Drake for The New York Times)

The `police officers’ were pushing and shoving to arrest them. I saw Mrs. Meral, Mr. Mesut’s wife, lying on the floor and two lady constables were pulling to get her on her feet. The couple’s two teenage daughters were weeping loudly and some other `police officers’ were trying to push Mr. Mesut, who was protesting the raid, towards the door. When I saw the sheer display of disproportionate power applied on Mrs. Metal, I protested and the `officers’ arrested me and took me downstairs.

Soon, the members of the Kacmaz family were brought downstairs. While they were making us climb into the Toyota Hilux squad pickups, the `officers’ blindfolded all of us first and later slipped hoods on our heads (including Mrs. Meral and their two daughters). I was handcuffed in the front. They could not handcuff Mr. Mesut, so they tightened a cloth strip around his wrists. Mr. Mesut protested and a scuffle happened. Mr. Mesut received some blows on his face.

We were made to travel in squad pickups. I could not see any title like `Police’ on the pickup. There were revolving roof lights, though. All of the `officers’ were in plainclothes.

We travelled about 30 minutes and when they removed our blindfolds, I saw that we were in a well-furnished bungalow. It looked like a guest house. There were other people there as well. I guess some them were senior ‘officials’. One of the ‘officers’ said to me, “You were not meant to be involved in this, yet you got yourself involved. We have nothing to do with you. Your name is not on our list. We will set you free.” They even removed the wall clock so that we should not keep track of the time.

They blindfolded me again and drove me back to the gate of the housing society where I live in, I was not wearing any footwear, so I walked barefooted back home. I could not see any number plate.

It was so shocking that for a family of four, fifteen ‘officers’ were deputed. What was more shocking was the treatment given to the family: blindfolding them all (including wife and children) and slipping hoods on their heads. We are ordinary educationists and being subjected to such a revolting treatment as if we were criminals is so appalling.

I have no idea who those people are and which organization they belong to.”

The Daily Pakistan reported that, the action might have been taken by the counter terrorism department, according to police report. The UNHCR is also closely monintoring the case as well.

Earlier, there was news that all the Principals of Pak-Turk Schools have been replaced by Pakistanis on the request of Turkish Ambassador Sadık Babür Girgin.

Mesut Kaçmaz

The international affiliation has also been cut to detach these schools from any global influence.

In a chain of 28 Pak-Turk Schools and Colleges in Pakistan, around 11,000 student are studying. The project has been launched in 1995 by the Pak-Turk Foundation.

Mesut Kaçmaz was also among those people journalist Sabrina Tavernise had interviews for an article published by the New York Times on the Gülen movement affiliated Turkish schools’ positive effect on Pakistan on May 4, 2008.

Previously Georgian government had also detained Mustafa Emre Çabuk, a Turkish educator who has lived in Georgia and has served for Georgian people for last 15 years. The detention had came just a day after Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s visit to the country.

In a similar incident, Turkish educators Turgay Karaman and İsmet Özçelik, who were turned over to Turkey by Malaysian government under questionable circumstances with a total disregard to due process and fair trial protections, were arrested by a an Ankara court and put behind the bars over their alleged links with the Gülen movement.

Turgay Karaman, the principal of prestigious Time International School, İhsan Aslan, a member of Malaysian Turkish Chamber of Commerce And Industry and İsmet Özçelik, an academic who has been under protection by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), were detained by Malaysian officials in Kuala Lumpur and deported to Turkey on May 11.

The abductions, detentions and extraditions of three Turkish nationals in Malaysia as part of clandestine operation by Turkey’s state security services in cooperation with Malaysian police had exposed Turkish government’s extensive spying and profiling activities targeting critics of the authoritarian regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on foreign soil.

Alettin Duman, one of founders of Time International School, and Tamer Tıbık, the General Secretary of the Malaysian Turkish Chamber of Commerce And Industry, were abducted in Kuala Lumpur last year, only to appear in Turkish prison in Ankara months later after having gone through a terrible ordeal of torture and abuse at the hands of Malaysian and Turkish officials. The sixth person, mentioned by Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu as handed over to Turkey by Malaysia, still remains to be a mystery as of today.

Erdoğan started targeting US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen movement openly after the corruption was exposed in December 2013 that incriminated the president and his family members, and later accused Gülen and the movement of being behind the failed coup of July 15, 2016 that he himself called as “gift from the God.”

Fethullah Gülen, however, rejected the accusations and has called for an independent international commission to be set up to investigate the coup attempt. The Turkish government has failed to present any evidence linking the movement to the abortive coup or any violence.

Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Erdoğan use of its security and intelligence agencies to conduct abductions and arrests in foreign jurisdictions despite of these abductions may be considered as a crime against humanity under the UN system as in the case of North Korea that used abductions in a larger scale for decades. Turkish government officials have never disavowed this practice of international abductions and rather they proudly mentioned these cases as victories for the government and these remarks were widely reported in pro-government media.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu even bragged about some of these cases in one of his past speeches, and revealed that their abductions were made with personal pledge given to Erdoğan by the Malaysian Prime Minister.

Actions in Malaysia and other countries, like Myanmar, Georgia, Saudi Arabia, Bahreyn, Sudan, may run contrary to legal principles such as non-interference and arbitrary arrest and detention, violating not only Turkish laws but the host nation’s laws in the process as well. Even if the rights violation took place in foreign countries, Turkey may be liable for the ill-treatment of kidnapped Turkish nationals that were prohibited by the Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Abductees are subjected to deprivation of their liberties when they were repatriated to Turkey and went through torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments. This practice may also give rise to allegations on the act of terror against the international community.

President Erdoğan has persistently voiced threats to those who have been forced to leave the country due to persecution and a witch-hunt, vowing that he will hunt them down and kill them in a public rallies that were broadcasted live and that were attended by tens of thousands of his die-hard fans. The abductions of Turkish citizens from Malaysia came against the background of Turkish President Erdoğan’s remarks which said on September 2016 that “no country or region around the world will ever be a safe haven for members of Gülen movement.”

Speaking at a rally in Turkey’s Black Sea province of Zonguldak on April 4, 2017, Erdoğan said: “We are purging every Gülenist in the army, in the police and in state institutions. And we will continue cleansing [these organizations of] them because we will eradicate this cancer from the body of this country and the state. They will not enjoy the right to life… Our fight against them will continue until the end. We won’t leave them wounded.”

The government started referring to the peaceful civic group Gülen movement as a terrorist organization (namely, the Gülenist Terror Group, or FETÖ), following the expose on major corruption investigations in December 2013 that implicated Erdoğan and his family members in billions of dollars of bribes and kickbacks.

Erdoğan started targeting Gülen and his movement openly after the corruption was exposed, and even accused the movement of being behind the failed coup of July 15, 2016 that he himself called as gift from the God. Gülen, however, rejected the accusations and has called for an independent international commission to be set up to investigate the coup attempt. The Turkish government has failed to present any direct evidence linking the cleric or the movement to the abortive coup.

On March 24, the Wall Street Journal exposed how Turkish government officials discussed about the illegal removal from the United States of Fethullah Gülen and his extrajudicial return to Turkey. While serving as an adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, also the ousted National Security Adviser of the new administration.

Details of the discussion in New York were learned from James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, who was in attendance, and from others who were briefed on the meeting in September 2016. Also in attendance at the meeting were Berat Albayrak, energy minister of Turkey and President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, and Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, according to foreign lobbying disclosure documents filed by Flynn with the Justice Department in March 2017.

Woolsey arrived at the meeting on Sept. 19 in the middle of discussions about the cleric and found the topic “startling and the actions being discussed possibly illegal,” he told the WSJ, adding that the idea was “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” Woolsey said specific tactics for removing Gülen were not discussed, but if they had been, he “would have spoken up and questioned their legality.”

Erdoğan’s propagandists openly entertain abduction, kidnapping and even assassination of members of Gülen movement abroad in pro-government media without any repercussions and criminal liability.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch the ruling 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’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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