Turks threatened over alleged links to the Gülen movement find a safe haven in Greece

By Hans von der Brelie

When thousands of Turkish citizens lost their jobs or were jailed over suspected links to the Islamist Gülen movement, they chose self-exile to escape persecution.

Thessaloniki, in northern Greece, has turned into a place of refuge for many of them.

Then the President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blamed his main political enemy, Fethullah Gülen for the attempted military coup in July 2016.

This was denied by the Turkish imam and businessman who exiled to the United States in 1999.

But multiple anti-Gülen raids in Turkey followed in 2016, triggering a brain-drain: the country is losing a huge part of its well-educated middle-class.

#thessaloniki the ancient city in northern #Greece turned into a safe harbour for political #AsylumSeekers fleeing #Turkey. They are sharing their testimonies on persecution, arbitrary detention and disastrous conditions in overcrowded Turkish prisons @euronews @euronewsinsidrs pic.twitter.com/sBCegI5Mup— Hans von der Brelie (@euronewsreport) November 21, 2019

But for Thessaloniki, the arrival of Turkish asylum seekers has led to a revival of start-ups and small business such as Turkish icecream-shops, shoe-shops, rental shops and restaurants.

It was heartbreaking, to leave my beloved home country

Musa Yücel Turkish refugee and entrepreneur

Musa Yücel, a Turkish refugee from the western Black Sea region has lived in Thessaloniki for a year and a half.

His Greek asylum application is still being processed but he already has a work permit. It took him 5 months to get all the paperwork together, allowing him to open his small restaurant earlier this year.

“It was heartbreaking, to leave my beloved home country,” says Musa, who, together with his wife opened the small restaurant, “Pita in the City” in the historic centre of Thessaloniki.

Now, the father of three serves mainly Greek clients, but also Turkish refugees, visitors and tourists from all around the world.

“I am sad about the silence in Europe regarding what happens in Turkey,” he says.

Before fleeing Turkey Musa was active in businesses, such as building and selling apartments and launching restaurants in different Turkish cities.

He owned several restaurants and learnt cooking on the job.

Musa was also involved in one of those many education companies linked to the Gülen movement, helping supervising school board decisions.

When the witchhunt against Gülen-supporters started, Musa was targeted too, although he did not take part in the failed military coup.

“I was accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation and financially helping and managıng the Gülen movement. I spent eight months in jail pending trial, because of those accusations,” says Musa.

“The situation in the prison was really difficult. We stayed there with 22 people in one very tiny cell. We didn’t have enough water and we did not get enough to eat.”

“No books were allowed, not even the Koran.”

Musa was released after a long time in custody because the judges had no material proof to sentence him.

But fearing a second arrest warrant following a second wave of persecution against “gülenists”, Musa decided to hide: for ten months he lived “underground” before leaving Turkey by crossing the Evros border river between Turkey and Greece.

When we were crossing the Evros. It was so dark and we had to carry our daughter, so we lost all our belongings.

— Ahsen Safiye Tozanoglu, Teacher and Turkish refugee

Ahsen Safiye Tozanoglu, a teacher and Turkish refugee, studied chemistry before joining a Gülen-linked school in Sirnak, close to the Turkish border with Iraq.

During the coup, she and her husband, who was also a teacher, told their students to stay peaceful.

Nevertheless, both lost their jobs and had to leave their country clandestinely.

“When we were crossing the Evros. It was so dark and we had to carry our daughter, so we lost all our belongings,” says Ahsen.

“When we arrived in Thessaloniki, we had nothing. So in this place here, we found some clothing and other basics for people in need.”

Ahsen now occasionally gets free food and clothes from a charity shop in the city, organised by the Gülen network.

She also has a small income from working as a translator for refugees at the “Irida Women’s Center.”

The NGO supports around 300 women from 35 nationalities who have ended up alone with their children, unable to speak the language.

Project manager Christa Calbos confirms that the number of Turkish women there is on the rise:

“Just yesterday we registered four new Turkish members,” she says. “Some of the main challenges we are facing here, that our community members are facing, are having their educational and job backgrounds recognised here in Greece so that they can start to live again here and have access to the labour market.”

“Additionally, the majority of our members are mothers, their children are going into Greek public schools and are facing struggles to learn the language.”

#MoJo filming in northern #Greece #Thessaloniki meeting families in need. It's not easy for #AsylumSeekers from #Turkey: many children are facing struggles to learn Greek language, #IRIDA Women's Center project manager Christa tells @euronews @euronewsinsidrs pic.twitter.com/Jg3HiA3ZeA— Hans von der Brelie (@euronewsreport) November 22, 2019

After the coup attempt, Ahsen and her husband were imprisoned for over a year, together with some 77,000 other alleged “terror suspects.”

She had to leave her daughter Neda, who was 15 months old at the time, with relatives.

“I do not think that there is an independent justice system existing in Turkey any longer,” says Ahsen.

“In prison. the most difficult situation was to see a woman with her 30 days old baby.”

“The emprisoned mother did not have enough milk. The baby was so tiny and meagre. It was not possible to give it enough food.”

Many thousands in #Turkey have lost their jobs or been jailed over links to the #Gülen movement. Thousands more have chosen self-exile. Mothers are jailed with their babies. Europe sees a rise in numbers of Turkish #AsylumSeekers: @euronews meets them in #thessaloniki in #Greece pic.twitter.com/aJfDZRW0sh— Hans von der Brelie (@euronewsreport) November 21, 2019

Ahsen’s husband eventually fled to Germany, close to Bonn, where he is waiting for a decision on an asylum application for the whole family.

If granted asylum in Germany, they will join him via family reunification procedures there. Ahsen has already started to learn some German in anticipation.

But Neda misses her father so much she needs psychological help.

I was dismissed from my job. I was labelled a criminal. I was not granted my rights to defend myself… I see Turkey today as a complete dictatorship.

— Bekir Çayir, Former computer teacher and Turkish refugee

Bekir Çayir lives in a rural village in Northern Greece with his children, five-year-old Faik and twelve years old Selma.

Previously he worked as a computer teacher at a Gülen-affiliated school.

After the coup attempt, he was among the 150,000 people dismissed from their jobs because of their alleged links with the Gülen network.

Greece grants him protection and his family of four gets a small amount of financial support from the UN Refugee Agency.

To supplement his meagre income, he creates websites on a freelance basis.

He is still working on his Greek, but he is able to communicate with neighbours and administration.

“On September the first 2016, I was dismissed following the presidential decree number 672, along with tens of thousands of other people.

“I was labelled a criminal. I was not granted my rights to defend myself. I was exposed to a kind of social death.

“After I was dismissed, two former lawyers of mine were arrested too.”

“Then in the area I lived, I called eleven lawyers. Out of those, ten bluntly refused to look into my case.”

“I see Turkey today as a complete dictatorship.”

Bekir knows the Koran by heart and reads 20 pages every day.

His deep faith runs alongside some of the values taught by Fethullah Gülen: priority to education, prayer and conflict management by dialogue.

“But I did not receive any specific Gülen training,” he stresses, “and I am not a member of any kind of inner Gülen circle”.

“When reading his books I felt close to Gülens ideas, that’s all. But above all, I consider myself just an ordinary, modest and open-minded Muslim.”

One of the books he owns about the prophet Mohammed was written by Fetullah Gülen.

“Those books are considered evidence of a crime right now in Turkey. Personally, when I was still in Turkey, I had to bury seven huge bags of books.”

“Many people who owned those books are in prison.”

We had arrest warrants issued against us, so we had no opportunity to go to any hospital.”“When you go to a hospital you are in their database and they can find and arrest you.

— Yasemin Atik Former student dormitory manager, Turkish refugee

Mother of four, Yasemin Atik is waiting to be reunited with her husband, who found protection in the US and works in a market and as an Uber driver.

Back in Turkey, she worked as a student dormitory manager linked to the Gülen movement. She also volunteered in several Gülen-labelled charity organizations.

All those schools, groups and NGOs were perfectly legal until the coup d’Etat.

When the anti-Gülen crackdown started, Yasemin was pregnant.

“The schools we were working for were closed down,” says Yasemin.

“We had arrest warrants issued against us, so we had no opportunity to go to any hospital.”

“When you go to a hospital you are in their database and they can find and arrest you.”

“To avoid those risks, we decided to give birth at home.”

“When the midwives arrived very early in the morning, they told me not to scream when giving birth. I told them: Yes, I know.”

“The following two years, every single day we were afraid of being arrested.”

Yasemin is now active on so-called social media, alerting people about the situation of imprisoned mothers in Turkey. Figures from early 2019 show there are about 864 jailed mothers-with-babies.

Yapmış olduğum röportaj benim değil onlarca annenin hikayesidir.Bize söz hakkı tanıyan @BOLDmedya ekibine tesekkur ederim. @cevheriguven https://t.co/416S5aUbfw— Yasemin Atik (@YaseminAtikTB) July 1, 2019

Of her time in Thessaloniki, Yasemin says she also gets a stipend from the UNHRC and that she has good relations with her Greek neighbours: a woman living nearby often drops by, donating fruit and vegetables. Yasemin brings her some of her favourite Turkish dishes and they exchange Greek and Turkish recipes.

Yasemin is a mother of 4. She is from #Turkey and got blacklisted for having links to the #Gülen movement. Being afraid of getting arrested in hospital after childbirth, she gave birth to Yusuf at home: "The midwife told me not to scream" she tells me. OnAir Friday @euronews pic.twitter.com/UoFLdBOQ7p— Hans von der Brelie (@euronewsreport) November 21, 2019

As a result of the persecutions, in 2018, around 25.000 Turkish asylum requests were filed in the European Union, a rise of 50 per cent on the previous year.

Germany, with some 10,000 applications filed in 2018, is the number one host country, closely followed by Greece with almost 5.000 asylum applications filed last year.

And the exodus continues. In the first four months of 2019, Greece received 1682 Turkish asylum applications.

Fearing arrest and with no belief in the independence of the Turkish justice system, thousands of teachers, managers, public servants and businessmen can no longer return to Turkey.

Saying good-bye to their home country, they try to start a new life elsewhere in Europe or overseas.
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Today is another Human Rights Day, but atrocities persist | Opinion

Sait Onal

It was Lessing who once said, “There are things which must cause you to lose your reason or you have none to lose.”

Viktor E. Frankl cites the same sentence in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. I find myself murmuring the same sentence to fight off the insidious mortification of normal human reactions in the face of things that must cause us to lose our reason, or we have none to lose.

Today is December 10, yet another Human Rights Day.

We have come a long way in terms of defining and framing the human ideal and the corresponding liberties. We should be thankful for the progress we have made combatting institutionalized slavery, racial segregation and patriarchal inequalities. We should all take a moment to celebrate our awareness that we share basic human rights.

But there still is a lot of silence regarding horrific events in the world. We come across these events scrolling through social media or turning the pages of a newspaper. Sometimes we miss them altogether.

Even if we are informed, it is not easy to overcome the barriers that desensitize us to the suffering of others. Alas! It our very beings are harmed because human rights are relevant to us all. Our shared humanity is rooted in these universal values. If humankind should learn one thing from its past, it is whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we all are at risk.

One such case is the experience of thousands of Turkish people under the Erdogan regime after the failed coup attempt in July 2016. Soon after the coup attempt, Erdogan’s regime launched a crackdown on opponents and critics, detaining thousands of journalists, rights activists, lawyers, teachers and writers for their alleged involvement in anti-state activities. Especially targeted were members of the Hizmet Movement, a humanitarian movement that gained popularity and influence in the last decades before the coup attempt.

Thousands are jailed, many of them tortured, and some were abducted. Yet, I am not going to repeat the facts, which may only aid in numbing us rather than inspiring our understanding and compassion.

But,I would like to share the stories of the many phantomized victims who are afraid to breathe and who pray to die before perdition finds them. Some of these victims are allegedly Erdogan opponents, some are just friends or relatives of a member of the Hizmet Movement. Some are little children who risk being taken away from their parents or jailed with their mothers. Almost 1,000 children have faced that fate.

Imagine children too afraid to go to school, who spend their days in cold dark basements just to keep safe? Imagine children who flee their homes, desperate to survive? To escape the persecution, some have drowned in the waters with their families on their way to the overcrowded refugee camps on Greek Islands.

It surely is a disaster, a dark and gloomy picture that would sadden any human heart.

How is this acceptable? Are we failing as the human species?

One might ask, wouldn’t it be safer for them to wait in their homelands no matter how dire their situation? To answer, one needs to know about the toxic environment that seeps into the souls of people in Turkey. Helping the innocent families of prisoners is considered a charity in any other part of the world,. But in Turkey, Erdogan’s government persecutes people who help the spouses and children of prisoners.

One brave woman recently tried to find a way to help without getting caught. She tucked some money between the pages of a book and mailed it to the family that desperately needed the financial help. Unfortunately, she has been caught and arrested.

On one hand there is a civil death going on for large portions of the society, on the other hand there is an emotional death for the soul of the nation. It is difficult to discern which is uglier.

The New York based “Advocates of Silenced Turkey”, a nonprofit human rights organization, has documented many cases of abuses in Turkey. It is one of the few organizations with accurate information on Turkey, since the Turkish media has been silenced.

Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

All of these liberties are under serious attack in Turkey, a country that resembles someone being smothered and forced to remain quiet amid their suffering.

Sait Onal is president of the Turkish Cultural Center in Pennsylvania.
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Source: Hizmetnews

Cancer patient arrested over Gülen links shortly after surgery

A woman in the southern Turkish province of Antalya who underwent surgery a month ago has been arrested on terrorism charges due to her alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The news about Ayşe Özdoğan’s arrest was announced by Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a renowned human rights activist and member of the Turkish Parliament from the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

In a message from his Twitter account, Gergerlioğlu said Özdoğan has been arrested despite the fact that she is a cancer patient and will soon require a second surgery because part of her jawbone has to be removed due to metastasis.

The HDP deputy also said the woman’s husband was also arrested eight months ago and that the couple’s 6-year-old son is now without a mother or a father.  

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on followers of the movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight as a result of which more than 130,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 30,000 others are still in jail and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.
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AfSV Message on the Shooting Incident in Jersey City on Tuesday

We received, with sadness and horror, the news of the shooting incident in Jersey City on December 10.

The attack, which the authorities identified as driven by anti-Semitic hate, left a police officer and three civilians dead.

Unfortunately, hate-driven violence has become frequent news in the United States and around the world. Despite the unprecedented advances humanity has made in other areas, it is sad that much work remains to be done to eliminate unjustified fear, anger and hate among fellow human beings, some of whom resort to extreme forms of violence.

An attempt at a single life is an attempt at the sanctity of life and is a threat to all life on the planet. At AFSV, we believe that the recognition of our connections with each other and with all living beings is crucial to preventing toxic divisions. Together with our partners, we are committed to continuing our work on healing fear, anger and hate by nurturing dialogue, mutual understanding and empathy.

We send our sincere condolences to the victims’ families and our hearts go out to all those who were affected.

On this sad occasion, we stand in solidarity with them and declare our condemnation of all forms of violence.

About Alliance for Shared ValuesThe Alliance for Shared Values (AFSV) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that serves as a voice for cultural organizations affiliated with Hizmet, a civil society movement inspired by prominent preacher and peace advocate Fethullah Gülen. The Alliance strives to promote peace and social harmony by helping reduce misinformation and false stereotypes about any or all ethnic, cultural and religious communities. To learn more about the Alliance, please visit www.afsv.org.
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Fethullah Gulen Cited among Watkins’ 2019 the Most Spiritually Influential 100 Living People

We are delighted to share with you Watkins’ 2019 list of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential Living People – spiritual teachers, activists, authors and thinkers that change the world. The list comes out in print in the Spring issue, #57 of Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine on February 29 (you can get a copy of this issue here or take out a full year subscription here).

Watkins bookshop in London has been encouraging spiritual discovery and providing seekers with esoteric knowledge for over 120 years. In 2011, we started publishing the 100 list with the goal of celebrating the world’s living spiritual teachers. Our special magazine issue features 16 pages dedicated to interesting details, bios, photos and highlights about each person on the list. As you read through this list, we hope that you feel as inspired as we are by each individual’s significant impact.

2019 Spiritual 100 list at a glance:

1 Pope Francis2 Oprah Winfrey3 Dalai Lama4 Eckhart Tolle5 Desmond Tutu6 Rhonda Byrne7 Edith Eger8 Alejandro Jodorowsky9 Neale Donald Walsch10 Julia Cameron11 David Lynch12 Russell Brand13 Sam Harris14 Ken Wilber15 Tony Robbins16 Thich Nhat Hanh17 Paulo Coehlo18 Deepak Chopra19 Teal Swan20 Steve Taylor21 Sadhguru (Jaggi Vasudev)22 Gabor Maté 23 Arianna Huffington24 Alice Walker25 Matthew Fox26 Fethullah Gülen27 Brian Weiss28 Brené Brown29 Iyanla Vanzant30 Bob Dylan31 Elizabeth Gilbert32 Gabrielle Bernstein33 Byron Katie34 Marianne Williamson35 Sri Sri Ravi Shankar36 Ruby Wax37 Mooji38 Ram Dass39 Esther Hicks40 Amma41 Francis Chan42 Robin Sharma43 Don Miguel Ruiz44 Jon Kabat-Zinn45 James Lovelock46 Erich von Däniken47 Clarissa Pinkola Estés48 Vandana Shiva49 Rupert Sheldrake50 Michael Bernard Beckwith51 Rob Bell52 Graham Hancock53 Hamza Yusuf54 Thomas Moore55 Justin Welby56 Martin Seligman57 Richard Bach58 Abdullah II of Jordan59 Rowan Williams60 Karen Armstrong61 Alex Grey62 Robert Thurman63 Pema Chödrön64 Ervin Laszlo65 Prem Rawat66 Andrew Weil67 Richard Rohr68 Daniel Goleman69 Gary Snyder70 Jack Canfield71 Eben Alexander72 Dan Millman73 Daisaku Ikeda74 Andrew Forrest75 Anita Moorjani76 Gregg Braden77 Ajahn Brahm78 Bruce Lipton79 Stanislav Grof80 Zainab Salbi81 Daniel Pinchbeck82 Robert Bly83 Sherin Khankan84 Jack Kornfield85 Satish Kumar86 Caroline Myss87 Adyashanti88 Starhawk89 David Frawley90 Elaine Pagels91 Richard Rudd92 Daniel J. Siegel93 Tara Brach94 Elizabeth Lesser95 Lee Carroll96 David Deida97 James Redfield98 Lorna Byrne99 Vadim Zeland100 Sharon Salzberg

To discover more about each spiritual teacher, get a copy of issue 57, Spring 2019.

There are several factors that were taken into account when compiling the list. The main three criteria are:

1) The person has to be alive as of January 1st, 20192) The person has to have made a unique and spiritual contribution on a global scale3) The person is frequently googled, appears in Nielsen Data, has a Wikipedia page, and is actively talked about throughout the Internet. By taking into account the amount of times that a person is googled or how many times their Wikipedia profile is viewed, the list gains a highly democratic and transparent parameter. Additionally, we were highly selective in creating this list and did our best to remove candidates who spread messages that were hateful or intolerant. Ultimately, this list is meant to celebrate the positive influence of today’s spiritual teachers.

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Prof. Nanda: Extraditing Fethullah Gulen to Turkey would erode the rule of law

Professor Ved Nanda

“I’m a big fan of the president,” said President Donald Trump at the joint press conference with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, adding that he had “a great relationship both personally with President Erdogan and with the great country of Turkey.” This was after a five-hour meeting at the White House on November 13. However, that visible show of warmth and friendship could not hide the growing tensions between the two countries.

Defying persistent objections from the U.S. administration, Turkey has purchased an air defense system from Russia. S-400 missiles were delivered in July 2019. The U.S. fears that Russia could gain access to American F-35 communications and defenses and has barred Russia from joint manufacturing or purchasing of F-35 war planes. Under U.S. law, the White House must impose sanctions on countries that acquire Russian defense equipment, but the Trump administration hasn’t done so, claiming that this system will not become operational until April.

Turkey resents the recent House resolution, passed overwhelmingly, that calls the 1915 massacre of 1.5 million Armenians a genocide. It is equally offended by another House resolution imposing sanctions on selected Turkish officials for the country’s invasion of Syria and the bombing of civilians, resulting in 100,000 people fleeing the area. Reportedly, the militia under Turkish control has also committed war crimes.

Turkey considers unacceptable the U.S. alliance with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it alleges are collaborating with the Kurdish People’s Party (PKK) and are terrorists. These are the fighters who repelled the ISIS fighters from North Syria, having suffered thousands of casualties as partners of the U.S.

A serious bone of contention has been Turkey’s extradition request for a frail Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, once an ally and now an opponent of Erdogan, who promotes moderate Islam all over the world and has run a number of businesses, charities, and charter schools. A green card holder, he lives in a 26-acre retreat in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, and faces terrorism and treason charges in Turkey for accusations that he was the mastermind behind the 2016 failed coup against Erdogan. Gulen has consistently denied the charges. After the failed coup, Erdogan purged thousands from the civil service, armed forces, and judiciary, claiming that they were Gulen followers. The administration has also severely restricted freedom of assembly, association, and movement. Turkey has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.

Michael Flynn, an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign and later his first national security adviser, now convicted and to be sentenced in December, lobbied for Gulen’s extradition to Turkey. Subsequently, Trump’s personal lawyer and former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, has also raised the issue of Gulen’s extradition frequently during his White House visits.

Under international law, the extradition process begins with a country seeking a person who had committed a crime in that country or has been found guilty of an extraditable offense. The crime must be recognized in both countries; under many treaties, it must be a severe crime, usually carrying at least a one-year sentence in both countries. The standard is “probable cause.” Political crimes are not usually allowed as the basis for extradition, but then again, interpretation of “political crime” lies with each country.

In the U.S., extradition is based on treaties, of which the United States has over 100. The request is made to the State Department and the Secretary of State conveys it to the Department of Justice, which weighs the evidence. Turkey has sought Gulen’s extradition since 2016, but the Justice Department has not found sufficient evidence to extradite him.

Turkey’s strategic importance cannot be overestimated. However, Erdogan’s personal friendship with Trump alone cannot resolve the difficulties. Even if Trump may be willing to find a way to extradite Gulen or find another country to accept him in order to placate a NATO partner for geopolitical reasons, he must not. Once again, the damage to the rule of law would outweigh any benefit Trump hopes to gain from such an action.

Ved Nanda is a distinguished professor and director of the Ved Nanda Center for International Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His column appears the last Sunday of each month and he welcomes comments at vnanda@law.du.edu.
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8-year-old cancer patient denied passport due to father’s alleged links to Turkey’s Gülen group

Ahmet Ataç, an eight-year-old kid with stage four bone cancer, has reportedly been denied a passport by Turkish authorities due to the his father’s ongoing imprisonment over alleged links to Turkey’s Gülen group.

The group is accused by the government of masterminding a coup attempt in 2016.

According to Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a pro-Kurdish deputy in Turkey, Ahmet’s father has been held in prison for over 19 months on terror and coup charges. His mother was also detained several times over the past month on similar charges.

Ahmet has a stage 4 bone cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate for the most advanced stage of bone cancer, or osteosarcoma, is only 27 percent. Ahmet’s mother says that scientists at the Immune-Oncological Centre in Cologne (IOZK) may actually have a way to cure her son, if he is given a passport to go to Germany, of course.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen group, inspired by US-based Turkish Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Ahmet Burhan Ataç: Ben babamı çok özledim onu istiyorum!https://t.co/cu2gOylvA9— Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu (@gergerliogluof) September 17, 2019

Kanser hastası Ahmet Ataç’ın annesi şu an mahkemede, memlekette zerre hukuk varsa serbest bırakılmalı..!@adalet_bakanlik— Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu (@gergerliogluof) October 16, 2019
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D.C.-based law firm gathers intel on U.S. residents for Turkey – WSJ

The Turkish government has employed a Washington D.C.-based law firm to gather information on its critics, including U.S. residents, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The Journal reviewed documents showing that the Turkish Embassy had employed the Saltzman & Evinch law firm to gather intel on associates of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist preacher living in self-exile in Pennsylvania whose religious movement Turkey blames for a coup attempt in 2016.

The firm, which specialises in matters related to Turkey, compiled information on suspected Gülenists using public databases and social media for Turkey’s foreign and justice ministries, the Journal said.

The firm’s principal Gunay Evinch is a co-chairman of the Turkish-American National Steering Committee, a U.S.-based lobbying group. A lawyer at the firm, Rümeysa Kalın Karabulut, is the daughter of Erdoğan spokesman İbrahim Kalın while associate attorney Rachel Cerqueira Denktaş is married to the son of Turkish Republic of North Cyprus founder and former president Raif Denktaş.

Once an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, the Gülen movement became one of its most reviled adversaries after the government blamed Gülenist prosecutors for launching a corruption probe on top ministers in 2013.

The movement was widely believed to have seized influential positions in state institutions, but Erdoğan dismissed or jailed tens of thousands of suspected Gülenists in a series of purges after the July 2016 coup attempt.

The purge has also taken place on a global scale, with Turkish authorities pressuring governments around the world to shut schools linked to the movement and hand over alleged followers of Gülen.
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Disabled woman loses health care due to son-in-law’s Gülen links

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a member of parliament from Turkey’s left wing pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said the health care benefits of a gravely disabled woman were cut off because her son-in-law was a public servant dismissed from his job by government decree.

More than 130,000 public servants were summarily dismissed by government decree during two years of emergency rule declared following a coup attempt in July 2016. The government crackdown mainly targeted the Gülen movement, a religious group accused of orchestrating the coup attempt, but also spread to take in other opposition groups.

Aslı Kır was not found suitable for receiving health care benefit while the state of emergency was in force after it was noticed that her son-in-law was dismissed from his job by government decree, according to district governorship’s statement posted by Gergerlioğlu on Twitter.

“We will not let them be forgotten and call out before the justice,” HDP deputy said.

İşte OHAL döneminde hukuksuzluk, zalimlik, vicdansızlık boyle yapıldı. Ağır engellinin damadı KHKlı diye bakım parası verilmedi..!Bu suçlarını örtbas etmek için yargı zırhı yasa teklifi getiriyorlarBunları unutturmayacağız, hukuk önünde hesap soracağız..! pic.twitter.com/xAoACYmiuG— Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu (@gergerliogluof) November 10, 2019

According to a report by rights group Amnesty International in October, those dismissed did not just lose their jobs, but were cut off from access to their professions, as well as housing and health care benefits, leaving them and their families without a livelihood. Those dismissed include teachers, academics, doctors, police officers, media workers employed by the state broadcaster, members of the armed forces, as well as people working at all levels of the local and central government. 
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Turkish Human Rights Violations Put Under Microscope

Tom Russotti

In a moment where Turkey is under international scrutiny for its recent military incursion into Syria, The Turkish Cultural Center hosted its 10th annual friendship dinner at Baku Palace in Sheepshead Bay on Thursday evening.

The annual dinner celebrates and strengthens civic ties within the Turkish diaspora and with the United States; last night was no different save the sobering theme of the proceedings: Turkish human rights violations.

Upon entering the reception, visitors were greeted with images of recent deceased dissidents, imprisoned and killed by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, their names and cause of death written below.

Photo by Tsubasa Berg

Hafza Girdap, spokesperson for Advocates of Silenced Turkey,  explained part of her organization’s work as that of giving recognition and voice to the victims of the regime. She and others from the nonprofit, founded in the U.S. by Turkish exiles, are also lobbying the European Union court of justice to take up the cases of their countrymen purged during the coup of 2016.

Amongst the standard decor and scheduled rhythm of an awards dinner, the event unfurled, blending awards and recognition of community service with political commentary.

The keynote speaker, Alon Ben Weir , an NYU professor of international relations who worked as an Israeli negotiator with Turkey for over 20 years, discussed his shock at the path Erdogan has taken. He never imagined someone who enacted many social and economic reforms,  tripling Turkey’s GDP in the process, would devolve into an autocrat who has dismantled core democratic systems in order to consolidate power.

Alon Ben Weir , an NYU professor of international relations who worked as an Israeli negotiator with Turkey for over 20 years, discussed his shock at the path Erdogan has taken. Photo by Tsubasa Berg.

Weir’s hypothesis is that Erdogan is who he says he is: a man bent on restoring Turkey to a world power akin to the days of the Ottoman Empire.

While he expressed skepticism that the Trump regime would do anything to play realpolitik with Erdogan to walk back his autocratic overreach, Weir also offered hope in that Trump and Erodogan would eventually be gone, and that the real power of Turkey and the United States lay in its people, and their ability to connect and affect change.

Ultimately this was the purpose of the evening, to continue to foster understanding within the US and Turkish communities, especially in these difficult times.
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Source: Hizmetnews