Pakistan government violates UNHCR status by deporting Kaçmaz Family to Turkey

The repercussions of the deportation of Turkish teacher Mesut Kaçmaz (43) and his family by Pakistan government to Turkey on early Saturday, despite of the fact that the family has been under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have continued.  The violation of the principle of non-refoulement of the UNHCR has drawn massive reactions in Pakistan and around the world.

Kaçmaz family, who were abducted from their home at a midnight in Lahore on September 27, were reportedly 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.

However, according to information given by their friends in Pakistan, 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.

Kaçmaz Family’s friends have said that the UNHCR certificates were printed on October 12 and delivered to Turkish educators and their family members on October 13. However, Mesut Kaçmaz and his family were deported to Turkey while they are under the protection of UNHCR. Thus the UN, UNHCR protection and the principle of non-refoulement were violated by Pakistani government. So, the effectiveness of the protection by UN and UNHCR has started to be questioned widely.

It was also reported that Kaçmaz Family has been expected to appear before a Pakistani court on Monday (October 16). It has been widely expected the court would give a decision on the behalf of Kaçmaz Family to stay in Pakistan and decide to release them. Predicting the court’s possible decision, Pakistan government has decided to handover the family to Erdoğan regime before the hearing on Monday.

The deportation of the members of the Kaçmaz Family by Pakistan government to Turkey although they have UNHCR certificates valid till September 11, 2018 has also caused a big shock among the Turkish families who are still in Pakistan under the UNHCR protection. Currently, about 70 Turkish families in Pakistan which are in the same status and they have started to question the effectiveness of the protection certificates given by UN and UNHCR.

Turkish Families have been questioning why have not the UN put more pressure on the case and stop the illegal deportation process. Speaking to Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), a Turkish teacher in Pakistan has asked that “We demand UN to take us from this country and to transfer us to more secure and a safe country. We could not understand why they are waiting to do this. Do they wait Pakistani government to deliver all of us by one by to the lawlessnesses and tortures of the autocratic Erdoğan regime?”

Another Turkish teacher in Pakistan, who want to be remain anonymous, has given an striking example of how much respect has been showed by a regime which has not been governed by the rule of law. He stated that “Pakistani police or intelligence officials have frequently visited us at our houses. Whenever I have showed the UNHCR certificate to them, they have reacted by swearing “I your UNHCR card” and using other swearwords. They have been swearing both me and the UN. Also, they have frequently threatened me saying that “If we will, we can take you to a camp.”

The teacher has also called UN to take initiative and prove its reason of existence by assuring the protection of those teachers in Pakistan who are under official protection of UNHCR. “All are silent despite all these bullying, tyranny and mafia actions have been realised before the eyes of the whole world,” he said.

Rebecca Harms, a member of the European Parliament, has also criticized the Pakistan government for deporting Turkish teacher Mesut Kaçmaz and his family on Sunday. “How is this possible against high court decision and in spite of protection by @UNHCRPakistan @UNRefugeeAgency Any comment by UN? @hrw,” said Harms, a member of @europarl_en Co-Chair Euronest Assembly At home in Germany & Europe, in a tweet.

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.

The four members of the Kaçmaz Family, who have been under the protection of the UNHCR were abducted on September 27 at around 2:30 a.m. by 15 armed and plain-clothed people, assumed to be Pakistani law enforcement or intelligence agents. The perpetrators blindfolded and hooded Mr. and Mrs. Kaçmaz along with their two teenaged daughters.

However, the Lahore High Court had decided on September 28 that no action should be taken until a decision to be given by a court on October 6. It should also be noted that the abduction of the family had taken place by disregarding an earlier Lahore High Court decision preventing harassment of Turkish asylum-seeking teachers and their families across Pakistan. Pakistani authorities had kept the place of detention secret and therefore Kaçmaz family has not been seen by anyone including their lawyers. Pakistani government has not make any explanation either.

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 Hizmet 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 and corrupt President Recep Tayyip Erdogan 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.

According to his friends who told to the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), the family woke up at midnight with a loud noise in the night connecting September 26 and 27. 15 people were at the door of their house and were trying to break in. Mesut Kaçmaz’s daughters Huda Nur (17) and Fatma Huma (14) fell into a crying fit, saying “Are they here to take my father?”

Mesut Kaçmaz asked the group of their identity and organization, explaining to them that they had no right to enter his premises without any warrant. It was obvious that the group had come for all family members, because there were five women ‘officers’ to attend to the ladies of the family. Mrs. Meral Kaçmaz fainted and the group simply moved on to blindfold and hood her and her daughters Huda Nur and Fatma Huma. According to the witness statement, Mrs. Kaçmaz was dragged into the vehicle in an unconscious state.

Turkish teacher Fatih Avcu, who had witnessed the entire incident and been arrested shortly, announced the abduction incident to the whole world with a video recording on the same day. Later, an unofficial statement was circulated that the Kaçmaz family was relocated to another city and held in a secret place. However, there is no concrete information about their whereabouts for the last six days. It is rather surprising that Pakistani state officials are choosing silence in this regard.

In a similar incident in Malaysia, some Turkish educators and entrepreneurs were intimidated, abducted and illegally handed over to Turkey at the request of the Erdoğan’s autocratic regime.

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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