Turkish government’s long arm failed to abduct Gülen-affiliated teacher in Moldova

İhsan Dağı

Turgay Şen, the general director of the Orizont High School in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, has claimed asylum in the country in order to escape the long arm of autocratic Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which has cracked down hard on alleged followers of the Gülen movement.

Şen was detained by Moldovan police on charges of “terrorism financing” when he headed to Chisinau Airport to leave for a conference in Bucharest on March 31. Released from police custody the same day, Şen immediately requested asylum in Moldova.

The Turkish government had earlier asked Moldova to close the Orizont High School over its alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement, to no avail.

“Stop the intoxication of education through the interference of political revenge. The pursuit of political opponents and opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also reached Moldova. Here he found some reliable partners in abuse, Dodon and Plahotniuc, with whom he conspired to arrest Turgay Şen, director of the Horizon High School,” Maia Sandu, Moldova’s former education minister and leader of the opposition Action and Solidarity Party, said on Facebook.

“With this gesture, the authorities not only carried out a political order but also hit one of the most successful educational institutions in Moldova. So they hit what is most valuable to us, education. Since this case is very much like political persecution, we ask the authorities to give an urgent explanation,” Sandu added.

The incident came just two days after Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT), in a joint operation with Kosovar intelligence officers, abducted six Turkish nationals, one doctor and five educators, working for a group of schools affiliated with the Gülen movement and removed them to Turkey the same day. The Kosovar prime minister said he was not informed about the operation and ordered an investigation into the officers involved in it.

The Erdoğan regime in Turkey has called on foreign governments to punish alleged followers of the Gülen movement in their territories. So far, a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Georgia, Pakistan, Sudan and Myanmar have handed over academics, businessmen and school principals upon the Turkish government’s request despite the fact that some of those victims already had refugee status with the United Nations.

On Monday, Erdogan’s lawyer Hüseyin Aydın said Turkish intelligence officers could be involved in more abductions around the world “in the coming days.”

“With reports of Turkish intelligence activities in multiple countries, including other kidnapping plots, governments should become much more willing to offer Turkish citizens asylum and must look very skeptically upon Turkish government requests for arrest and extradition,” Freedom House’s Nate Schenkkan wrote in The Washington Post on April 1.

A total of 14,640 Turkish nationals claimed asylum in European Union countries in 2017, according to Eurostat data. The corresponding number was 10,105 in 2016 and only 4,180 in 2015.

Meanwhile, US-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the arrest of Turkish nationals in Kosovo showed a callous disregard for human rights and rule of law.

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.

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 other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, 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, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “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.” (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

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