ANKARA: The abduction of three university students snatched from a busy Ankara street has sparked fresh concerns about the safety of Turkish citizens following a recent increase in similar cases.
The students, all known to have left-wing leanings, were threatened by their kidnappers with death and then left in isolated parkland in the city on Feb. 18.
The abduction was considered to be a warning against those joining student protests across the country in opposition to the appointment of a political figure as the rector of Turkey’s prestigious Bogazici University.
Several people have been abducted recently by individuals who introduce themselves as “state officials” and carry out criminal record checks.
Some of the victims, after being mistreated and tortured, were allegedly asked to spy for intelligence services and then warned that they would be automatically arrested if they continued attending protests.
“Wherever you go, we will be after you” was among the most frequent warnings they heard.
Last year, New York-based Human Rights Watch drew attention to the abductions with a report that focused on the statements of 16 people who had been forcibly seized by intelligence agents.
“Enforced disappearances are serious crimes under international law and are prohibited at all times. The prohibition also entails a duty to investigate allegations of enforced disappearance and prosecute those responsible,” the report said.
Ankara Bar Association Human Rights Center also issued a report last year on the forced disappearance of seven people and filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor.
Human Rights Association (IHD) has been following up on the abduction problem for years and released frequent reports since 2018.
“The abduction trend is on the rise, especially following the failed coup attempt in 2016. We have held several meetings with the Interior Ministry and the parliamentary commissions about our findings, and we expect an effective investigation to be launched,” Ozturk Turkdogan, president of the IHD, told Arab News.
Some public officials who were dismissed from their post just after the failed coup attempt have also been kidnapped in recent years, and information on their whereabouts withheld from theor families.
According to Turkdogan, forced disappearances — a common practice during the 1990s by intelligence officers against civilian Kurds and leftists in Turkey — are most probably conducted by an illegal structure within the state apparatus in order to suppress dissident voices.
“It shows that the state has lost its control on this structure. Several victims prefer remaining silent about their experiences during the abduction period, while those who file a criminal complaint have not yet seen anyone facing trial,” he said.
The European Court of Human Rights has said that the Turkish state has been responsible for several abductions in the past.
Ozgur Ozel, group deputy chair of the main opposition party CHP, recently urged the Turkish parliament to open an investigation commission into forced disappearances in the country.
“The allegations about torture, threats of rape and beating should be investigated very seriously. If those who commit them are public officers, they should be identified and held accountable for these crimes. However, no progress has been achieved so far with these investigations,” he told Arab News.
Ozel will meet the university students who were recently abducted in Ankara. “It is a must to bring these cases into the spotlight to prevent them from bein g repeated,” he said.