Turkish family still missing after capsized boat incident on Turkish-Greek border

Three members of Turkish family has gone missing after their boat capsized in the Evros/Meriç/Maritsa River, an incident that has already resulted in confirmed death of three members of another Turkish family. Both families were trying to escape the vicious witch-hunt persecution by Turkish government that targeted the vulnerable group Gülen movement.

According to a report by Turkish online news outlet TR724, the members of Doğan Family, Fahrettin Doğan (30), Aslı Doğan (28) and their son İbrahim Selim Doğan (3), who were on the same rubber boat together with drowned members of the Abdurrezzak Family, are missing.

It was also reported that the man, who could land on the Greek side by swimming, was a Turkish citizen and a Gülen movement volunteer Fatih Yaşar.

According to the information shared in the social media, Fatih Yaşar said that the person organizing the risky travel did not give life jackets to the members of Doğan and Abdurrezzak families. According to Yaşar, the boat crashed the trees, capsized and he managed to survive by clinging to the trees.

It was previously reported that Ayşe Abdurrezzak (37), who was dismissed from her teaching profession by a government decree and released by a Turkish court with judicial probe including an international travel ban after she detained for a while, was one of the three corpses found in the river. While the bodies of two boys and their mother were washed up onto the shore of the river, the other 4 people are still missing. Uğur Abdurrezak, the father of the found children who lost their lives, was also released from jail in January 2018 after 11 months of imprisonment over his alleged links to the Gülen movement.

According to the report, the process that took the family on this dangerous journey began after the failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Uğur Abdurrezak, a 39-year-old English language teacher, and his wife Ayşe Abdurrezak, a 37-year-old Turkish language teacher, were among some 30,000 teachers who were dismissed from their professions by a government decree under the rule of emergency that was declared by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Both of them have lost their jobs on the grounds that they were alleged members of the Gülen movement.

The report said that Uğur Abdurrezak was detained by police during a raid to his home after six months of his dismissal from his duty and was imprisoned in Kandıra Prison for 11 months. He was reportedly released in January 2018 but the case continued with the charge of “being a member of terror organisation.” Uğur Abdurrezak, who was tried with a demand of prosecutor for prison sentence between 6,5 years and 22 years, decided to leave the country with his family.

Together with their 11-year-old son Abdülkadir Enes and 2-year-old son Halil Münir, Abdurrezzak Couple was set to flee Turkey through the Maritsa/Evros River at the midnight of February 13, 2018. After a long walk accompanied by human traffickers, there was another family walking along with them, the families reached the Maritsa/Evros River around 05:00 a.m.

Fatih Yaşar, who has now resided in a refugee camp in Greece, told Euronews the details of the tragic incident as follow: “The boat was not big enough to carry all of us. Therefore, we insisted for two rounds but the smugglers did not listen to us. Also, the level of water was too high. The boat was constantly spinning. We first hit a tree branch and were driven away. Then the boat capsized when we hit a tree branch for the second time. The water was so cold… I could not hear any sound when the boat overturned. I thought that I was going to die, too. Fortunately, I could hold a piece of branch. I could hardly took myself to the shore. I roamed around for about 5 hours with my wet dresses. All my stuff and phone were gone. Then, I found a Greek soldier.”

The identities of the corpses found by Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) teams, were announced as Ayşe Abdurrezzak (37), Halil Münir (3) and Abdulkadir Enes (11). Father Uğur Abdurrezzak (39) was also in the same bot. Beside of Abdurrezzak Family, Fahrettin Doğan (30), his wife Aslı Doğan (28) and their son İbrahim Selim Doğan (2) were also on the boat. However, no traces of the members of the Doğan Family and Uğur Abdurrezzak could have been found.

Fahrettin Doğan, his wife Aslı Doğan and the couple’s 2-year-old son İbrahim Selim Doğan were also reportedly escaping from persecution and ill-treatment by Turkish government due to their alleged membership to the Gülen movement.

The Aegean Sea and the Maritsa/Evros River have been a graveyard for many Syrian refugees in the recent years. However, the latest victims of the sea separating the two countries have been the Turkish citizens. Five members of the Maden Family had drowned while they were trying to cross the Aegean Sea to reach the Greek island of Mytilene on November 1, 2017.

Thousands of refugees and migrants enter Greece every year from Turkey on their way to Europe. Most choose the sea crossing in flimsy smuggling boats to the eastern Aegean islands. However, Evros/Maritsa river has also been used for passage from Turkey to Greece.

In recent years, beside of refugees from other countries using Turkey as a transit route, some Turkish citizens, who had to fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt launched by Turkish government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement, have also used the same route. Many tried to escape Turkey via illegal ways as the government cancelled their passports like thousands of others.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, Erdogan government pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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 Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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 Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “Even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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