Mysterious disappearances involving already-victimized opposition groups have become a common occurrence in Turkey in the aftermath of a July 15 coup attempt, with at least seven cases of alleged abduction reported so far.
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 members of the Gülen movement, after the coup attempt, according to the Aktif Haber news website.
The Turkish government pinned the blame for the July 15 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.
CCTV footage and passersby witnessing the alleged abductions show that at least two of them (separately) were forced into cars by unknown groups of people. Meanwhile, family members claim that police are not willing to cooperate in most cases.
Those reported to have been abducted include two teachers, a university employee, two intelligence agency officials, an Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTİK) employee and a Competition Authority employee.
Cengiz Usta, not seen for 17 days
Cengiz Usta, a 44-year-old teacher in Izmir 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 Izmir’s Torbali 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.
Önder Asan, not seen for 20 days
A 41-year-old philosophy teacher, Önder Asan, mysteriously disappeared in Ankara’s Şentepe neighborhood on April 1, according to his wife Fatma Asan.
The Aktif Haber online news website said Önder used to work as a philosophy teacher at a secondary school that the government shut down over its links to the movement after July 15.
Fatma later said she found her husband’s car parked near Şentepe with its tires slashed. Fatma also said police and the prosecutor in charge are so reluctant to investigate the case that not even a single CCTV camera in Şentepe was examined for possible recordings of her husband.
Turgut Çapan, not seen for 21 days
Turgut Çapan, a former employee of Turgut Özal University, which was shut down by the government over its 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 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 had been abducted.
Turgut 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, not seen for 50 days
Mesut Geçer worked at the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) 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, in late March of this year.
According to Aktif Haber, his family members have been having difficulty even in submitting petitions to ask about Geçer’s whereabouts as offıcials often refuse to cooperate with them.
Hüseyin Kötüce, not seen for 81 days
Hüseyin Kötüce, a BTİK employee, was reportedly abducted at the parking lot of the Batıkent subway station in Ankara after he got off work in February of this year.
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 Gültekin, not seen for 120 days
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, not seen for 171 days
Having started work at MIT in 2005, 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.
Meanwhile, 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.
Also, an Ankara man named Sunay Elmas is also reported to have been abducted, but this is particular case took place 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 for 450 days.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed over 240. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.
Erdoğan’s Islamist government has also 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.
Gülen has been a vocal critic of the Turkish government and Turkey’s autocratic President Erdoğan on massive corruption in the government as well as Turkey’s aiding and abetting of radical groups in Syria. Erdoğan launched an unprecedented persecution against Gülen and his followers in December 2013 after a major corruption probe that implicated Erdoğan’s family members. Gülen, a 75-year-old cleric, and his followers have never advocated violence but rather remained staunchly opposed to any violence, radicalism or terror in the name of religion.
According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt, while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention. (Turkey Purge with SCF)