GUVERCIN: Turkey’s dictatorship seizes Kosovo teachers

Opinions Column: The Bigger Picture

On March 29, five Turkish teachers and a Turkish doctor in Kosovo were secretly deported against their will by order of the Turkish government. The teachers were working at the Mehmet Akif College, an institution affiliated with the Fethullah Gülen movement, which is a group that has been the target of constant ostracization and scapegoating by the Turkish administration and media. Their arrest is being justified simply by their affiliation with the movement. These six innocent men are just one case of an expansive and hostile manhunt that has been enabled by the Turkish administration since the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey, whose motives rest on capturing individuals involved with the Gülen movement. Students of the abducted teachers led protests in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, defending the teachers' innocence and seeking justice for an illegal and unfounded deportation.

Recent news has surfaced that Ramush Haradinaj, Kosovo’s prime minister, has fired his interior minister and intelligence chief for deporting the educators and doctor without consent, thereby partaking in a “violation of the decision-making hierarchy.” Many other Kosovar officials have expressed criticism for the lack of legal precautions and consultations taken in this illegal and incognito affair, while the Human Rights Watch (HRW) also condemned Kosovo for enabling the deportation of men who “were sent to a country where they face a serious risk of torture” and were subject to “a callous disregard for human rights and the rule of law.” Furthermore, even though reports stated that these individuals were deported, which connotes that they actually went through legal proceedings, their lawyers were unable to access them, and authorities never submitted proof of their whereabouts or conditions to their families and friends in Kosovo.

What does Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have to say about this? He expressed his disappointment in the prime minister’s statements and decision to fire the two officials who administered the deportation, and claimed that Haradinaj will “pay” for protecting "those who work to stage a coup against the Turkish Republic.” What is interesting is that while the president is acting as if the necessary officials were contacted for consultation on this affair, his statement further insinuates that this operation deliberately excluded the prime minister and other officials in order for a hasty and uninhibited abduction to occur. If these individuals were undoubtedly national security threats and international criminals, why avoid contact and necessary legal work? It is equally baffling that teachers who were all the way in Kosovo would have anything to do with the coup that occurred in Turkey. It is not only hypocritical, but shameful, for a country that preaches justice and law to overstep the legal boundaries of another government, and deprive an opportunity for the legal rights a democratic republic traditionally upholds to its citizens. The fact that these individuals were seized not only against their will, but were not given any opportunity for legal protection demonstrates the easily dispersible nature of corruption and demagogy.  

Turkey  is committing several human rights violations that are targeting educators, journalists, respected officials, doctors, lawyers, women, children and the elderly. “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," according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom. Soylu said the number of detentions is approximately three times higher to a security meeting in İstanbul and said “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.” Turkey is also among the top three countries who has imprisoned the highest number of journalists.

These six men, and hundreds of thousands of other victims, are being persecuted, taken away from their families, publically humiliated, deprived of rights, called “terrorists” and “traitors” and are being subject to harsh punishments for crimes they have not committed. Turkey has succeeded in stifling its democracy and dedication to justice, and continues to commit one of the most hostile and divisive crimes against its own citizens. A country that claims to be Westernized and upholding of its democratic title should not be implementing covert operations to seize teachers from their classrooms and detaining the voices of their people. This manhunt will continue until civilized countries uphold and defend universal democracy and freedom, as well as hold the countries who violate these principles accountable for their actions. We must begin to speak up against injustice for the sake of those whose voices have been taken away. 

Dilara Guvercin is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year double majoring in philosophy and psychology. Her column, "The Bigger Picture," runs on alternate Fridays.


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