Teacher, lawyer go missing in new wave of post-coup disappearances in Turkey’s capital

Lawyer Mustafa Özben(L), teacher Fatih Kılıç.

Fatih Kılıç, a teacher who was dismissed from his job under post-coup emergency rule, and lawyer Mustafa Özben have been missing for days, joining the ranks of seven others who disappeared under suspicious circumstances in the aftermath of a July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

Their families, both living in Ankara, separately announced on social media that they hadn’t recently heard from Kılıç or Özben.

“My husband is a victim of a post-coup government decree. He has been unemployed for seven months. We have no source of income. We depend on assistance from our families. I was together with my husband and four children on May 14. We had a lovely Sunday. Then we prepared for our trip. He took us to AŞTİ (Ankara bus terminal) in the evening. I was going to visit my grandparents along with my kids. He was to join us after a while. He left us, waving goodbye at around 22.50. It has been five days since we heard from him. Now, life is going sour for us,” Fatih Kılıç’s wife Nihal Kılıç wrote in a series of tweets on Friday.

She said Fatih Kılıç has not been located at any police station so far, adding that the last CCTV footage he appeared in shows him getting into a vehicle bound for Ankara’s Kızılay district.

Meanwhile, Mustafa Özben’s wife Emine Özben sought help in a video of herself, her 5-month-old baby and her mother, posted by a Twitter account under the name of the Özben Family.

“I am a housewife. My husband is a Bar registered lawyer. He is a legal expert and an educator at the same time. My husband has not been home since he took our daughter to school on Tuesday, May 9. The following day I went to the police, gendarmerie and many other places, but I came away with nothing. We have three daughters, aged 5 months, 4 years and 10 years. Every day they ask me where their dad is. I cannot give them an answer. Please help us in the name of humanity,” Emine said before bursting into tears. “I am concerned for his life,” she added.

NUMBER OF DISAPPEARED PEOPLE RISES TO NINE

Mysterious disappearances involving already-victimized opposition groups have become a common occurrence in Turkey since last summer. At least nine cases of alleged abduction including that of Fatih Kılıç and Mustafa  Özben have been reported so far.

Previously, two teachers, a university employee, two intelligence agency officials, an Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTİK) employee and a Competition Authority employee have been reported while one of the teachers was handed over by unidentified men to police after spending 42 days out of sight.

A philosophy teacher Önder Asan who was abducted in Turkish capital on a broad daylight in April and reported missing by his wife turned up in Ankara police department as traumatized and tortured 42 days later. Önder Asan (41) mysteriously disappeared in Ankara’s Şentepe neighborhood on April 1, promoting his wife to file a missing person report and pleading authorities to find her husband. Asan was working in a secondary school that the government shut down over its alleged links to the Gülen movement that is subject to unprecedented persecution in Turkey led by autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Those not seen for quite some time all have in common in their personal histories that they have lost their jobs amid a sweeping crackdown that the Turkish government has conducted against its critics, particularly alleged members of the Gülen movement.

The Turkish government pinned the blame for the July 15, 2016 bloodshed on the Gülen movement and has been trying to vilify the group, which it calls an “armed terrorist organization.” The movement rejects the accusations, defining itself as a social movement with activities in education, business and charity.

Other cases of abductions and missing persons that are alleged to have linked to security services in Turkey are as follows:

CENGİZ USTA: MISSING SINCE APRIL 4, 2017

Cengiz Usta

Cengiz Usta, a 44-year-old teacher in İzmir province who was dismissed from his job by a state of emergency decree, has been missing since April 4, joining two below-mentioned education professionals who are claimed to have been abducted the same week.

Usta was a teacher at Cumhuriyet Primary School in İzmir’s Torbalı district until he was dismissed by government decree on Sept. 1, 2016.

“My brother left his daughter at home and went out to pay the elevator maintenance fee. He has not come back home yet. A witness claims that my brother was forced into a car by two men on Abdulkadir Street. This was recorded in police records as well,” the teacher’s elder brother, Selim Usta, told local media.

TURGUT ÇAPAN, MISSING SINCE MARCH 31, 2017

Ülkü Çapan and Turgut Çapan.

Turgut Çapan, a former employee of Turgut Özal University, which was shut down by the government over its alleged ties to the Gülen movement, was abducted on March 31, according to his wife Ülkü Çapan, who runs a popular Twitter account to speak up.

Ülkü Çapan also released a video clip in which she explained the story in detail. She said a friend of her husband dropped by her home on April 1 to say that Turgut Çapan had been abducted.

Turgut Çapan was the head of the Culture, Sport and Art Affairs Department at the university until it was shut down by the government, according to Mahmut Özpınar, a former academic at the now-closed Turgut Özal University.

MESUT GEÇER, MISSING SINCE MARCH 26, 2017

Mesut Geçer worked at the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) until he was dismissed as part of the government’s post-coup crackdown.

His car was stopped and he was reportedly abducted in the Çakırlar quarter in Ankara’s Yenimahalle district, on March 26, 2017.

According to Aktif Haber, his family members have been having difficulty even in submitting petitions to ask about Geçer’s whereabouts as officials often refuse to cooperate with them.

HÜSEYİN KÖTÜCE, MISSING SINCE FEB. 28, 2017

Hüseyin Kötüce, a BTİK employee, was reportedly abducted at the parking lot of the Batıkent subway station in Ankara after he got off work on Feb 28, 2017. Family members found his coat and a cake he had bought in Kötüce’s car, parked in the parking lot.

Despite successive requests, family members have so far failed to get police to carry out a fingerprint examination on the car, while no CCTV footage was released.

MUSTAFA ÖZGÜR GÜLTEKİN, MISSING SINCE DEC. 21, 2016

Mustafa Özgür Gültekin, a Competition Authority employee, was followed by at least four cars to a convenience store in Ankara’s Beştepe neighborhood at 18:15 on Dec. 21, 2016.

Immediately after Gültekin left the store, he was surrounded by a group of men who later forced him into a Volkswagen Transporter van with tinted windows.

Family members have so far managed to obtain nearby CCTV footage in which Gültekin was seen while being forced into the car.

AYHAN ORAN, MISSING SINCE NOV. 1, 2017

Having started work at MİT in 2005, Ayhan Oran was dismissed over his alleged ties to the movement on Aug. 2 of last year.

He was last seen leaving the compound he was living in at 12:38 on Nov. 1 of last year. The signal on his cell was active only before 16:00 the same day. While he had no money in his pocket, he did not even bid farewell to his wife before he went out, Sözcü columnist Saygı Öztürk said.

Oran worked in Turkey’s Şırnak and Diyarbakır provinces as well as in Greece.

SUNAY ELMAS, MISSING SINCE JAN. 27, 2016

An Ankara resident named Sunay Elmas is also reported to have been abducted on Jan. 27, 2016. Aktif Haber said Elmas had also been forced into a Volkswagen Transporter with tinted windows. His family has not heard from Elmas since then.

Meanwhile, the left-wing Turkish newspaper Evrensel reported on Jan. 10 that Zeynep Tunçel, a reader and distributor, was abducted and beaten by a group of unidentified people who accused her of resisting the government.

Erdoğan’s Islamist government has labeled the Gülen movement as “FETÖ,” a derogatory term and acronym for the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization.” However, the Gülen movement is inspired by US-based Turkish Muslim intellectual Fethullah Gülen, who has been advocating science education, interfaith and intercultural dialogue and community contribution. The movement promotes a moderate version of Islam with a heavy emphasis on public service. The movement runs schools and universities in 180 countries.

Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 2 that 47,155 people have been jailed over alleged links to the Gülen Movement since July 15, 2016. According to Soylu, 113,260 people have also been detained on the same accusation. On May 6, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen Movement. (SCF with turkeypurge.com) May 20, 2017

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