The Brussels-based NGO Solidarity with OTHERS has published a new report titled “Enforced Disappearances: Turkey’s Open Secret” that maps out enforced disappearances connected to elements of the Turkish government’s security forces.
The report provides an in-depth look into 25 cases of enforced disappearance that have taken place in recent years in parallel to growing human rights violations in Turkey.
“A dark stain on Turkey’s human rights record since the 1980s, enforced disappearances led by state agents have reappeared after a failed coup attempt in July 2016,” the report found.
According to the report, between the 1980 coup d’état and the attempted coup in July 2016, up to 2,000 people were believed to have been forcibly disappeared in Turkey, with some 450 confirmed cases.
In the 1990s, at the height of the armed conflict between Turkish security forces and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), disappearances particularly targeted members of Turkey’s Kurdish minority. After some progress thanks to the improvement of the human rights situation in Turkey in the 2000s, enforced disappearance started to reemerge following the July 2016 coup attempt.
“The practice of deprivation of liberty was not limited to formal detention and arrest. It also included the abrupt disappearance of a number of people,” the report noted. The target of the enforced disappearances is mostly individuals with alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith-based group targeted by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it said.
A series of kidnappings were reportedly carried out by Turkish intelligence in 2019. Seven people – Salim Zeybek, Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan, Özgür Kaya, Mustafa Yılmaz, Gökhan Türkmen and Yusuf Bilge Tunç – went missing under suspicious circumstances. All of them except Tunç mysteriously reappeared in police custody in Ankara after six to nine-month absences. Tunç’s whereabouts remain unknown.