A Turkish teacher based in Myanmar called for “help from the world” in a video recording he posted on social media minutes before he was handed over to Turkish authorities at Yangon International Airport by Myanmar police on Friday.
“I am calling everyone. Please help me. I am in the terminal area. They are pushing me. They are trying to give me to the Turkish Embassy. Please help me! All over the world. Please help me,” teacher M. Furkan Sökmen said in the video.
According to another video he earlier posed on social media, Sökmen, his wife Ayşe and daughter Sibel were detained by immigration officials who told the family that Turkish government had invalidated their passports. During an altercation with officials, Furkan is heard saying that “the Turkish ambassador has put pressure on Myanmar police to confiscate my passport.”
“Please help me,” Furkan says resisting the officials, who allegedly tried to prevent him from recording the video.
According to the True Stories Twitter account, the passports were confiscated by Turkish Embassy officials the same day.
In a later video Sökmen said he is at an airport in Bankook.
While the reason for the police action in Myanmar is yet to be known, earlier tips submitted to Turkey Purge as well as several other media articles reported on several mysterious incidents of abduction and detentions involving Gülenists or others from groups critical of the Turkish government.
“Both Myanmar and Thailand had the opportunity to do the right thing and provide this school administrator with access to #UNHCR so that his serious fears of persecution and possible torture if returned to Turkey could be examined. To do so would have been both humane and rights respecting, but both governments took the apparently cynical view that Turkey can do whatever it wants with its citizens, even those residing legally in other countries.
“Government leaders in #Yangon and #Bangkok have instead shamelessly chose to play the role of willing handmaidens to Turkey’s rights abusing campaign to strip its own citizens of their passports and force them back to a fate that could include possible torture, long pre-trial detention, and trials on trumped up charges before courts where proceedings are likely to be neither free nor fair.
“As a result, Furkan Sökmen will begin Ramadan this year in prison, separated from his wife and infant daughter, facing an uncertain but certainly very grim fate.
“His pleas sent in a video to HRW and others around the world from the Suvarnnaphum airport lock-up, to not be sent back to #Turkey speak for themselves. His voice stands as an indictment of #Thailand and #Myanmar’s cynical disparagement of the right of people to refuge and protection from political persecution,” Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch said on May 26.
Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. After the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the Gülen group for the attempt.
President Erdoğan earlier called on foreign governments to punish Gülenists in their own countries. Only a few countries, including Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Georgia, seem to have complied with the request so far.
Turkey has already detained more than 120,000 people over their alleged or real ties to the movement at home before spreading its crackdown to overseas.
Meanwhile, NBA star Enes Kanter was denied entry to Romania upon a request from the Turkish government, according to a tweet posted by the Turkish basketball player on May 20.
An outspoken movement supporter, Kanter later told media that the Turkish government also had tried to catch him in Indonesia.