Hundreds protested in Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday after educator Orhan İnandı, founder of a prestigious school network, went missing in Bishkek and is feared to have been abducted by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) due to his links to the Gülen movement.
According to AFP, Kyrgyzstan’s interior ministry said more than 1,000 police officers were searching for İnandı, a dual Kyrgyz-Turkish citizen.
Police on June 1 said İnandı’s car was found close to his home with one of the doors ajar.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, 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 a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
Since 2016, Ankara has arrested tens of thousands of people suspected to have links to the movement and “repatriated” dozens. According to a recent report by Freedom House on global transnational repression, Turkey has become number one among countries that have conducted renditions from host states since 2014.
İnandı’s disappearance late last month came within days of Turkish spies arresting and bringing back to Turkey Gülen’s nephew Selahaddin Gülen, who worked in Kenya as a teacher.
Turkey did not publicly comment on İnandı’s disappearance, and AFP was unable to reach the Turkish Embassy on Tuesday.
Many of the Kyrgyz gathered outside the parliament in Bishkek on Tuesday were alumni of the Sapat network of schools, formerly known as Sebat, that İnandı founded.
One of the protesters, 39-year-old Zarina Sydykbekova, told AFP she believes Turkey is hiding İnandı in its embassy to force him to renounce his Kyrgyz citizenship, echoing a claim made by İnandı’s wife last week.
“The main thing [to hope for] is that he is still alive,” said Sydykbekova, who has been participating in the 300-strong protests for more than a week.
Erdoğan’s crackdown on the Gülen movement created a dilemma for ex-Soviet republic Kyrgyzstan, where the private school network stands out in the local education market but where Turkey has been an important partner since independence.
During a visit to the country in 2018 Erdogan pledged to “rescue Kyrgyzstan from the shadow of FETÖ,” a derogatory acronym used by Ankara for Gülen movement.
Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov is scheduled to begin a visit to Turkey on Wednesday, his office said Monday.
İnandı family’s lawyer Taalaigul Toktakunova told AFP that Orhan İnandı has been a citizen of Kyrgyzstan since 2012, having arrived in the country to help found the schools in the 1990s.