Turkish government has used its international clout to pursue exiles, dissidents, and regular citizens abroad and have Turkish citizens arrested in or deported from at least 15 different countries, wrote the Freedom House scholar Nate Schenkkan in an article published by Foreign Affairs journal on Monday.
The “transnational repression” exerted by Erdoğan regime in Turkey as it goes after Turks outside Turkey is a “threat to the rule of law everywhere,” as the article’s subtitle says.
Moreover, the degree to which the Turkish government can silence dissent among the Turkish diaspora will also have a great bearing on “whether viable democratic alternatives to authoritarian rule emerge”.
According to the article much of Turkish government’s focus abroad is on the followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish-Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen.
Sixteen countries have arrested or deported followers of Gülen movement, “ranging from supposed financiers to school teachers,” according to the article. The countries spread across a vast, diverse geographical area, from Angola to Indonesia, indicating “how dispersed the Gülen movement is and how aggressively the Turkish government has behaved.”
The article underlined the fact that a number of those deported were at the time seeking asylum, and therefore under UN protection, but were sent to Turkey anyway. Many of the schools affiliated with the Gülen movement have also been shut down abroad, further demonstrating Turkey’s influence.
Turkey has also brought Interpol to bear on its dissidents, and some of the 40,000 extradition requests the international police organisation reported they were examining may have been from Turkey, according to Schenkkan.
One left-wing writer, Doğan Akhanlı, was arrested and kept in Spain for two months while the Spanish police investigated an extradition request submitted by Turkey.
Meanwhile, the Turkish rhetoric around the transnational hunt for “Turkey’s enemies” has taken on a bloodthirsty tone among pro-government circles. One pro-government commentator, Cem Küçük, spoke casually about how Turkish intelligence units should assassinate the followers of the Gülen movement in foreign countries.
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 President 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.”