LONDON – 14 February 2018
On 13 February 2018, a mother (37) and her two children (aged 3 and 11) were found dead after their boat capsized crossing the Meric/Evros river that flows between Turkey and Greece. Reports say that there were eight people (three men, two women and three children) in the boat, the others are still missing.
The mother was identified as Ayse Soyler Abdurrezzak, who was a teacher dismissed from her job with a state of emergency decree after the 15 July coup attempt in Turkey, due to her alleged link to the Hizmet Movement. Her husband, Ugur Abdurrezzak was also a teacher, dismissed from his job on similar grounds, jailed for 11 months, and released on bail in January 2018.
A similar incident took place in November 2017, when Maden family with three children drowned in the Aegean Sea.
What does this mean?
- Amnesty International’s report on Turkey’s purge in the public sector stresses the arbitrary nature of the dismissals of over a hundred thousand public sector workers in Turkey under the post-coup attempt emergency decrees. It also notes that “unable to earn a living in Turkey, dismissed public sector employees have been prevented from seeking employment abroad, as the decrees also require the cancellation of their passports.”
- The report also suggests that ‘[a]ll of the people Amnesty International spoke to were either living off their savings, being assisted by friends or family, doing jobs such as cleaning in the irregular economy, or surviving on the minimal amount paid to dismissed workers who are members of trade unions. None of the people interviewed believed that they could survive in the long term under these circumstances.’
- In the same report, a woman trying to survive by selling home-made food, who previously worked in the President’s office but then was purged, told Amnesty International: ‘They don’t allow us to leave the country, they don’t allow us to work, I have a daughter to support… what do they expect me to do?’
- Some interviewees also told Amnesty International that ‘their relationships with family members who are government supporters have been damaged or even ended because those family members believed that dismissed public sector employees did indeed have connections with “terrorism”.’
- Hundreds of children are in prison alongside their moms as part of the post-coup attempt crackdown on the Hizmet Movement.
- Turkish Justice Minister said that 89% of the arrested had no links to the coup attempt.
- In 2017, over a thousand people escaped from Turkey through Meric/Evros river as in the case of the Tahsin family or other anonymous stories.
Dr Ismail Mesut Sezgin, Director of the Centre for Hizmet Studies, said:
The Turkish government’s indiscriminate use of emergency decrees and other authoritarian practices as well as its complete disregard for the rule of law force people to seek alternative ways to leave Turkey under dire conditions at the cost of their lives. Turkey is often praised for its response to the recent refugee crisis in the region by hosting the highest number of refugees in the world; yet, the current political and legal situation in the country forces its own citizens to embark on dangerous journeys to save themselves from persecution. To prevent similar tragedies from unfolding in the future, it is imperative that Turkey lifts the state of emergency, reinstates the rule of law and respects fundamental human rights and freedoms. It is also crucial that human rights organisations, Turkey’s friends abroad and other relevant agencies pay closer attention to how Hizmet people are being treated in Turkey in order to see the true extent of Turkey’s purge and bear witness to their sufferings.
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