3 people trying to flee persecution in Turkey detained at Greek border

The Greek-Turkish border line right on the bridge over the river Evros, in Thrace region. The grey line on the road marks the exact point where the two countries meet.

The Turkish government on Monday detained three people, including the general manager of a private school closed by a government decree under a now-ended state of emergency, in Edirne province as they were allegedly trying to flee persecution in Turkey under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Turkish border security forces reportedly detained Salih G., the former general manager of a Gülen movement-affiliated private school, and his wife, Hacer G., a teacher who was dismissed from her job by a government decree, in the Meriç district of Edirne province. It was alleged that the couple used to be users of the ByLock mobile phone messaging application.

Border security forces also detained Haydar K., who used to work for a private company allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement near the village of Bosnaköy in Edirne on Monday.

Thousands of people have fled Turkey due to a massive witch-hunt carried out by the AKP government against sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Many have tried to flee Turkey via illegal means as the government had canceled the passports of thousands of people.

One hundred fifty-four people have been detained over alleged Gülen links while trying to flee Turkey by illegally crossing the Bulgarian or Greek border since a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, online news outlet Diken reported on August 14, 2018.

Turks attempting to flee Turkey and reach Europe has been a new phenomenon since the coup attempt. Some of them, including children, died in the Aegean Sea or the Evros River in their effort to escape persecution.

More than 16,640 people succeeded in crossing the border in 2017 and applied for asylum in the 28 EU countries as well as Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Iceland, according to European Asylum Support Office (EASO) data. The data also indicate that there has been a 30 percent increase in Turkish asylum seekers in 2018.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

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 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 about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. 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.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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