Dear friends of Turquoise Harmony Institute,
We have decided to share some views and concerns regarding recent developments in Turkey and their implications for Turkish citizens, specifically those associated with Hizmet Movement, abroad and specifically in South Africa. As irrelevant as some local developments in a foreign country may be for South Africa, Turkish Government has taken their allegations and attacks on Hizmet abroad. Therefore we reluctantly find ourselves in a position to address some related points. We believe as much as their socio-political aspects may be irrelevant, the humanitarian aspects are very much universal and cause for concern.
Turkish Government’s unsubstantiated and baseless allegations against Hizmet Movement followers have been growing recently more so after the failed coup attempt of last year. The secretive and inconclusive legal process overseen by overzealous prosecutors and judges who operate like party members have cast much doubt on the veracity of the coup attempt itself and the official Government narrative which blames Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet Movement for the attempt. Government’s oppression and attacks have spread wide across political and social spectrum of Turkish society pointing to the fact that this was used as a pretext for purges and imprisonment much desired by the Government to silence critics and run with their agenda unchallenged.
There are very alarming developments too going forward. Since the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has intensified its efforts to locate, remove, arrest and even assassinate individuals they claim to be followers of or connected to the Hizmet (Gülen) movement, a values-based movement dedicated to peace, education and humanitarianism, and related institutions abroad. Abductions and extrajudicial executions of Hizmet movement participants have been orchestrated by the MİT, as seen in October and December 2016 and May 2017 in Malaysia, as well as in Somalia, Myanmar, Thailand and Nigeria, among other countries.
In the United States, former national security advisor Ret. Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn met in September 2016 with Turkish government ministers to discuss the illegal, physical removal of Mr. Fethullah Gülen, the inspiration behind the Hizmet movement, from the US to Turkey. The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets documented Mr. Flynn’s plans to “whisk this guy away in the dead of night.”
Meanwhile, the Turkish news outlets TR7/24 and TGRT News TV reported that the MİT established an “Office for Human Abduction and Executions” (the Office), or in Turkish, “İnsan Kaçirma ve İnfaz Bürosu.” Given the MİT’s disturbing track record of abduction and assassination – including the targeted murders of Kurdish and Armenian citizens and critics of the government both foreign and domestic –we are deeply troubled by this move from the Turkish government and fear for the safety of all Turkish citizens living abroad, including those in South Africa.
According to TGRT News TV and other Turkish media outlets, the Office has the authority to conduct “operations” to target, abduct or murder Hizmet participants and sympathizers living and working in foreign countries. The same source states the Office’s “field of activity” will begin in Sudan, Morocco, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Iraq with an allocated budget of US$5 million, which will be also used to pay various criminal and terrorist groups to support achieving the Office’s stated “objectives.”
The establishment of the Office follows frequent public statements from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other high-level officials since as early as September 2016, signalling the government’s intent to assassinate its critics abroad, with a focus on real or perceived participants of the Hizmet Movement. Former Turkish Ambassador to South Africa expressed a similar position last year in a statement that he gave to Daily Sabah. He said “We are after them (Hizmet movement participants and sympathizers) and we will be until the end. We know where they all are.” He further said: “Regardless, they should not feel too comfortable here (South Africa). The Turkish state will continue to follow them closely and it will be not possible for them to hide in South Africa from now on.”
In addition, a number people from Turkish government supported agencies and NGOs (TIKA, Turkish Cooperation and Advancement Agency, etc.) have also visited NGOs in South Africa attempting to mobilise them against Hizmet Movement institutions in South Africa.
Existence of such an office at Turkish Intelligence is and should be a concern for all who are worried about human rights and arbitrary violations of such. We are concerned about implications of above developments for people associated with Hizmet Movement-affiliated institutions in South Africa. This worrying development only builds on the government’s widespread and serious human rights violations aimed at silencing criticism, crushing opposition and suppressing any perceived threat to the government, including those outside the country.
Hizmet Movement has been doing development work in South Africa since middle of 1990s focusing on education, dialogue and outreach. Hizmet affiliated institutions are all legally registered entities and comply with all relevant rules and regulations. These institutions are well known to the public and it is unfortunate that we find ourselves in such a situation, which is beyond our control and will. We would prefer to be focusing our efforts and energies on our core work as Turquoise Harmony Institute, which is to foster dialogue, education, community outreach, tolerance, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
Since all these accusations and attacks are based on groundless allegations against Hizmet Movement, we would welcome any opportunity to do briefing sessions and hold discussions.
APPENDIX 1. News Coverage on Abductions and Executions by Turkish Authorities
The information below provides an overview of recent development in Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to expand his authoritarian hold on power – a trend that is moving overseas and now threatens the safety, security and lives of Turkish-South Africans in SA and in other countries.
On January 30, 2017 Daily Sabah, an English daily newspaper in Turkey, published an article.In that article Former Ambassador of Turkey to South Africa stated: “We are after them and we will be until the end. We know where they all are. We urge them to come in and submit to justice.” He further said: ”Regardless, they should not feel too comfortable here. The Turkish state will continue to follow them closely and it will be not possible for them to hide in South Africa from now on.” This issue further was discussed in Stockholm Centre for Freedom’s web site.
On June 15, 2017, Turkish journalists Cem Küçük and Fuat Uğur called for the assassination of Turkish citizens who reside abroad and do not pledge allegiance to the current Turkish regime during a live television broadcast on the pro-Erdogan TGRT news channel.
Even more troubling, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) recently established the “Office for Human Abduction and Executions” with the goal of kidnapping and executing Turkish citizens who are not loyal to President Erdogan, as reported by the news outlet TR7/24, which stated as follows:
“The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has established a Bureau for Human Abductions and Executions for kidnapping and execution Turkish citizens abroad. According to the information by TR724 news media, the bureau is authorized to hire contractors such as terrorist organizations, the mafia and local gangs. The bureau aims to kidnap and execute the Turkish citizens who live abroad and do not pledge allegiance with Erdogan’s regime in Turkey.
Overseas Activities Similar to ‘Nazi SS’ Paramilitary Activities
It is being alleged that the execution bureau of the MİT was founded to conduct operations against the sympathizers of the Hizmet movement inspired by Turkish scholar Fethullah Gülen. It is expressed that the bureau will initially be active in countries such as Sudan, Morocco, Pakistan, Azerbaijan and Iraq. The bureau is also authorized to conduct executions that will look like domestic terrorism. Based on criminality and contrary to the international law, the bureau’s mode of administration reminds the Nazi SS squads who used to execute important people outside the German borders. The Nazi SS officers under Hitler’s command were found and arrested after many years and put to trial by international penal courts.
While the bureau has vast authorities, it is also claimed that it has been given abundant financial means to hire contractors especially for kidnappings and executions. A hefty budget has been committed to this bureau to have contracts and payments with local gangs, mafia and terrorist organizations in the target countries. According to the claims, the bureau has already passed the lists of people to be kidnapped to various terrorist organizations in those countries and dispatched 5 million US dollars for this purpose.”
Turkey’s appalling actions continue to grow in size and frequency, as demonstrated below by recent news articles detailing the abductions and executions that have been or are likely to be carried out by Turkey and its MIT. These and Turkey’s other human rights abuses are also detailed at www.turkeypurge.com.
- Turkey Purge, Turkish intelligence must assassinate Gülenists abroad: Pro-gov’t journalists
- Stockholm Center for Freedom, Pro-Erdoğan Turkish Journalists Call For Assassination Of Gülen Followers Abroad
- Video, Pro-Erdoğan journalists call for assassination of Gülen followers abroad
- Stockholm Center for Freedom, Germany: Man Who Spied On Kurds For Turkish Intelligence Received 30,000 Euros
- Stockholm Center for Freedom, Enforced Disappearances In Turkey: Critics Whisked Away From Streets In Turkey, Detained In Secret Locations, Faced Torture
- Stockholm Center for Freedom, Okumuş Becomes 2nd Victim Of Abductions Targeting Members Of Gülen Movement In A Week In Turkey
Your support in drawing attention to this matter and preserving human rights and fundamental freedoms in Turkey and abroad is highly appreciated.