Turkish citizen’s abduction sparks panic in South Africa
Abductions of Turkish citizens living in Kyrgyzstan and Kenya have worried Turkish immigrants presently residing in South Africa. They fear these mysterious abductions are the work of the Turkish government targeting its opponents as part of a worldwide campaign. Fearful that they too could be kidnapped by government agents and brought back to Turkey to face jail time, they have sought the protection of the South African government.
This article by Eric Naki was originally published by the South African newspaper The Citizen.
The mysterious abduction of a Turkish citizen in Kyrgyzstan and similar earlier abduction of another Turkish teacher in Kenya has sent shivers among Turkish immigrants living in South Africa.
They fear being kidnapped and sent back home to face arbitrary arrests and jailing.
As a result, they have asked the South African government for protection from what they regard as harassment of the Turkish government opponents living abroad.
The abduction of Selahaddin Gulen caused panic among some Turks living in South Africa as this is one of tens thousands of abductions allegedly committed by Turkish agents against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opponents worldwide since 2016.
Those linked to Gulen, who was living in exile in the United States, were declared enemies of the Erdogan regime, which accused Gulen of masterminding the attempted coup in Turkey in 2016. But Gulen denied any involvement in the coup plot.
Gulen, 30, a US citizen had been in Kenya since October when he was arrested at the airport after the Turkish authorities sent out an alert saying Gulen was wanted in connection with “child molestation”, a charge that his lawyers said he was acquitted of.
Turkey asked for his extradition but a Kenyan court declined and issued an order for him to be deported.
There had been questions as to how Gulen was abducted outside the Nairobi police headquarters where he had reported as per his asylum seeker pass. Some Turks in South Africa do not think Gulen will be seen again.
The immigrants were concerned that this could happen to them as well, because of the porous South African borders.
“What happened in Kenya and Kyrgyzstan has left us traumatised because we don’t know when they will strike and abduct one of us,” said a member of the small Turkish community in South Africa.
A Turkish immigrant, Dr Aydin Inal, who is director of Turquoise Harmony Institute in the Western Cape, said: “I have been away from Turkey for over 20 years. I cannot go back to Turkey as I would be arrested. My mother passed away last year and I could not attend her funeral.
“Given the history of Turkish intelligence, it is not unthinkable that they could do more serious things, including targeting of individuals in the Gulen Movement [in South Africa].”
Inal said the Turkish government had polarised Turkey’s society and it was no longer possible to talk without being declared an enemy of the state in Turkey.
“When you raise a problem, they declare you a traitor,” he said. The Turkish embassy in South Africa did not respond to several queries about the matter by the time of going to press.