Exiled Turks choosing Balkan capitals to reunite with loved ones – Balkan Insight

Turks who have fled a crackdown in their home country are choosing Balkan capitals that are reminiscent of home to spend holidays and reunite with their families, the Balkan Insight website wrote.

Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia are appealing locations for Turkish exiles due to their proximity, low prices, sizeable Muslim communities and the general similarities with the Turkish way of life, it said. 

More than 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial and about 150,000 civil servants, military personnel and others have been sacked or suspended from their jobs following Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt. Ankara says the failed putsch was orchestrated by the Gülen movement, a religious group led by U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen. 

Since the failed coup, the Turkish government has launched a steady stream of investigations against those suspected of links to the network, leading many to flee the country

“There were too many risks to my job, no one knows what would happen (in Turkey) and I did not have any trust in law and democracy in Turkey,” one man who met his family in Sarajevo after two years told Balkan Insight. “So I decided to leave my country and my loved ones behind.”

Nearly half a million Turks left the country in 2016 and 2017, according to the Turkish statistics agency, with experts expecting figures for 2018 and 2019 to likely set a new record. 

A Turkish academic who used to work for an educational institution affiliated with Gülen and has now obtained political asylum in Europe chose the lakeside resort of Ohrid in North Macedonia to be reunited with his family. 

“North Macedonia is close to Turkey, prices are cheap and life is similar to that in Turkey,” he said. “When you are in Skopje or in Ohrid, you barely know you are in a foreign country because of the Ottoman past, the similarities between people and common Muslim practices.” 

He explained that going to Turkey was not an option as “many of his former colleagues back home are now in prison, facing trumped-up charges, while others are banned from going abroad.”

Another academic who worked for an independent research institution prior to the failed putsch explains how her work was closed under a presidential decree along with thousands of other NGOs.

“I had studied in the best universities, spoke several foreign languages and worked in prestigious institutions, but couldn’t find anything in Erdogan’s empire of fear. So I decided to go abroad and was accepted by an American university,” she said. 

She opted to go to Bosnia to get away from the crisis, spending several weeks in Sarajevo before leaving for the United States.

“The existing Turkish expat population was another reason why I chose Bosnia,” she said.