Arab Students in Turkey Facing Arbitrary Arrest

Police arrest a demonstrator in Istanbul on May 1. (SIPA USA via AP)
Police arrest a demonstrator in Istanbul on May 1. (SIPA USA via AP)


Date posted: May 11, 2017

Al-Fanar Media Reporting Team

Arab students who have previously studied at universities considered by Turkish security forces to have been influenced by the U.S-based cleric Fethullah Gülen are being arrested and threatened with deportation by police. Many such students have already been deported.

Syrian and Yemeni students have been detained, deported, or turned back at the airport after leaving the country and trying to return, Al-Fanar Media reporters found in a series of interviews. Human rights organizations are as yet unaware of the situation. (Many human-rights organizations have specific concerns such as protecting journalists or professors, and do not consider students part of their purview.)

Mohammed al-Mashhari, the Yemeni consul in Istanbul, confirmed the arrest of students from his country. “Most Arab and international students who were previously studying at universities linked to Fethullah Gülen are under threat,” he said.  “Students who haven’t been arrested yet are afraid of being detained or deported.”

Ibrahim Tawfiq Mohammed Anam, a Yemeni student, was arrested by Turkish police on March 14 and held at a detention camp for foreigners in Izmir, his uncle said. Two days later, Faysal Bsata and Abdel Salam Salem, two Syrian students, were both also detained by Turkish security forces at the immigration office in Gaziantep, according to HarekAct, a platform that monitors Turkish treatment of migrants. Both students were at the center to renew their residence permits: Bsata was subsequently deported.

No reasons were given for the detentions, according to interviews and published accounts. But the three students were all studying at universities closed by the Turkish government last summer following the unsuccessful coup attempt in July 2016. By the end of the summer, the government had closed 15 universities, according to Scholars at Risk, a New York-based group that tracks academic freedom issues. The closed universities were said by the government to be affiliated with the Hizmet (Service) movement Gülen leads and whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for an attempted military coup.

Anwar Abdu, uncle of the detained Yemeni student, said that Turkish authorities are putting pressure on his nephew and preparing to deport him. “He did not do anything wrong,” Abdu said.

Anam came to Turkey three-and-a-half years ago as a self-funded student. He started studying at Zirve University in Gaziantep, then moved to Gediz University in Izmir, so he could study electronic engineering in English. Later, he was one of hundreds of students who were transferred to other state universities after institutions suspected of being Gülenist were shut down. When Anam went to the Turkish immigration department to renew his residency, his request was denied. A few weeks later he was detained. “The Yemeni embassy is trying to help; but he could still be forced to leave the country without completing his studies,” his uncle said.

The arrest of students is part of a broader crackdown against suspected Gülen supporters. Turkish police have detained more than 1,000 civilians and suspended over 9,100 police officers in April on suspicion of links to Fethullah Gülen, according to the Anatolia news agency. The crackdown followed the April 16 referendum that centralized power in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hands.

None of the detained students contacted by Al-Fanar Media have been  informed of any charges against them. Turkish police are encouraging the detained students to sign forms saying they are leaving voluntarily, even though they actually want to stay in Turkey and continue their studies. “My brother was under great pressure to sign a voluntary-departure form to move to any country that accepts Syrians without a visa, but he refused,” said a brother of one of the detained Syrian students. “If he continues to be detained, he will not be able to take his final exams this year.”

Some Syrian and Yemeni students have already been deported. “I left Turkey without any record of grades in courses or any documents that prove my study. I can’t enroll at any Yemeni university now and do not know what to do,” said Zeid Mughir, a Yemeni student who was deported to Sana’a last year.

Mughir came to Turkey to study at his own expense and began studying Turkish for a year at the University of Pamukkale in Denizli, a city southwest of Istanbul. Then he moved to the İskenderun Teknik Üniversitesi, in the southern city of Hatay. None of the two universities were associated with Gülen. But Mughir was living in student housing affiliated with the Hizmet movement, which is associated with Gülen.

“Two weeks after the failed coup, the police stormed the building and arrested many students including me. The police forced me to sign a pledge saying I am a member of the Hizmet, then they deported me to Sana’a,” Mughir said.

Another female Yemeni student, who was studying business administration at one of the universities suspected of being associated with Gülen in Turkey three years ago and asked not to be named, also faces an unknown academic future. “I did not do anything illegal,” she said. “I was studying at a legal university and when the government shut it down, we were transferred to another one. But when I went to the immigration department in the Fatih district of Istanbul to update my contact information I was arrested and held in detention for two weeks, then deported to Yemen.”

Now she is in Sana’a and has hired a Turkish lawyer to help her to go back to Turkey or to get a copy of her transcript so she does not have to start her studies all over again.

No one has collected statistics on the number of deported students. But Arab students′ fear is increasing daily. Many students are not renewing their residency at the immigration department to avoid possible arrest, even though it puts them into illegal status.

Human-rights organizations seem unaware of what is happening to the students. “Unfortunately we have not worked on the situation of international students, so we are unable to comment on the issue at present,” the Turkey representative for Human Rights Watch wrote in an email to Al-Fanar Media.

Scholars at Risk is investigating the situation. “We understand that students from the closed universities were to be transferred or allowed to transfer to state universities in the region, but we also understand that for some students this was not a practical option or was not even possible,” wrote Daniel Munier, a program officer with Scholars at Risk. “Unfortunately, we cannot offer a clear understanding of the situation of the international students at these universities.”

The Turkish parliament has extended a state of emergency by another three months to July 19, which gives the security forces extensive powers. The fate of international students remains in their hands, while legal or diplomatic action seems unlikely to prevent students’ detention or deportation.


Related News

Turkey’s anti-Gulen crackdown continues with Yemeni students after Nigerians

Source: Al-Fanar Media , May 10, 2017


Related News

Turkey Coup: Fethulah Gulen Is Not A Terrorist

Fethulah Gulen did not fall from the sky or moon, he has a history that is in the public domain, the question is why did it take Erdogan too long to realize that Gulen is a terrorist? All through the years of robust relationship between Fethulah and Erdogan there was no accusation that Gulen was a terrorist, why now?

Ex-FM Yakış defends Turkish schools as the torch bearer of Ottoman vision

Yaşar Yakış is a founder and former member of the ruling AK Party (Justice and Development Party) and served as Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2002-2003. Speaking to Bugün Newspaper Yakış on developments pertaining to domestic and foreign policy Yakış emphasizes that the ruling AK Party has drifted off its founding principles.

8,480 Turkish nationals sought asylum in Germany in 2017

The number of Turkish citizens who sought asylum in Germany in 2017 totals 8,480, according to Deutsche Welle.

Turkish coup d’état: a failed test for the EU

Once the purges started, however, the game changed. The EU should oppose the purges as a symptom of an authoritarian turn and attempt of centralization of power by the ruling elite. By definition, a coup d’état is an illegal overthrow of the governing machine in place so to trigger a regime change. The response to a golpe by the ruling government should then be used as an opportunity to consolidate the power of the legitimately elected administration and give evidence of national unity.

AKP deputy calls on Turkey’s religious officials to declare Gülen followers apostates

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) İstanbul deputy Metin Külünk has said Turkey’s top religious officials should declare supporters of the Gülen movement apostates, the Yeniakit daily reported on Monday. Erdoğan himself has called Gülen movement people “terrorists,” “traitors,” “vampires,” “leeches,” “tumors” and “viruses.”

Pakistan – Side effects of the coup in Turkey

PakTurk Schools’ Parent-Teacher Association expressed concern that the government may hand over the school management to “a political entity”. The association has demanded of the government not to make an unwise political move, and investigate if there is anything wrong with their curriculum. “Turkey is a friendly country and we respect its democracy. But we should consider the future of 11,000 students of these schools,” the association expresses.

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

‘TUSKON is a reliable and long-time friend of ours’

Man gets prison sentence, fine after attack on Gülen-linked institutions in France

Autistic child injures self to express grief after father detained in Malaysia: mother

Police rescue 8 students, staff of Nigeria-Turkish International School from kidnappers

Police wait at hospital to detain cancer patient

O.C. Muslim leaders speak out against extremism

Hopefully the Gulen movement will help change the American values

Copyright 2022 Hizmet News