33 human rights organizations have signed a petition to support Turkmen activists who are pressured by the law enforcement authorities of Turkey, at the behest of Turkmen special services.
Human rights defenders call on the Turkmen government to immediately release Turkmen nationals from deportation custody, allow them to continue with their steps to regularize their status in Turkey as well as to promptly carry out an effective investigation of incidents of attacks on and intimidation of Turkmen activists in Turkey and hold those responsible accountable.
Below is the full text of the statement.
PRESSURE ON TURKMEN NATIONALS IN TURKEY MUST BE STOPPED.
THEIR RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS MUST BE SECURED.
Statement by non-governmental organizations
2 November, 2021
We, representatives of non-governmental organizations, would like to express our grave concern over the deteriorating fate of Turkmen migrants in Turkey – primarily those criticizing Turkmen government policies.
Over the past few weeks many of them have been subjected to threats as a result of pressure from the Turkmen authorities on the law enforcement authorities of Turkey as well as direct attacks on Turkmen migrants.
We call on the Turkmen government to stop their harassment and call on the authorities of Turkey to uphold their international legal obligations and ensure the reliable protection of rights and freedoms of Turkmen nationals residing in Turkey.
We urge the international community to closely monitor this worrying situation and assist in resolving it.
Turkey is one of very few countries to which Turkmen citizens can travel without a visa and where they may apply and obtain a residence permit renewal on an annual basis.
Similar languages and culture create conditions for employment, education and successful integration into the local community.According to some sources, over a million Turkmen nationals reside in Turkey, including migrant workers, students and their family members.
In recent years many Turkmen migrants have been inadvertently violating the laws of the countries where they reside, including Turkey, because of problems with extending and renewing passports created by officials of Turkmenistan’s consulates, who do not abide by their own laws compelling Turkmen residents to return in order to extend their documents.
In the past eighteen months the situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and because of rigid travel restrictions the number of Turkmen nationals experiencing problems with documents and thus unable to return to their home country has considerably increased.
As a result, thousands of Turkmen migrants with expired passports in Turkey have forfeited their rights to employment, education, healthcare, freedom of movement, social protection, marriage, registration of children etc.
This appalling situation has forced Turkmen migrants in Turkey to organize a group of civil activists, who, pursuant to the Constitution of Turkmenistan and international regulations, requested that the Consulate fulfill their obligations to renew passports as well as criticized the government’s refusal to acknowledge the presence of Covid-19 infections in Turkmenistan, insufficient measures undertaken to respond to the country’s economic crisis, and the authorities’ suppression of free speech.
People started taking to the streets to participate in rallies and to share their problems on social networks.There is documented evidence that many Turkmen nationals and human rights defenders have repeatedly appealed to the Turkmen authorities with a request to assist migrants in legalizing their documents.
To the credit of the Turkish authorities, for a long time they had been sympathetic towards Turkmen migrants and had not persecuted them because of expired passports.
However, the situation recently changed: in the course of preparations for the session of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking states scheduled to be held on 12 November in Istanbul there has been an increasing number of reports of arbitrary detention of Turkmen civil activists by the Turkish police, their placement in deportation facilities and threats of their immediate deportation to Turkmenistan. Experts believe that the Turkish authorities are trying to convince Turkmenistan to join the Council and undertake active measures to make sure this happens in the course of the upcoming session.
It appears that changes in the policy pursued by the Turkish authorities towards Turkey-based Turkmen activists occurred in response to requests of the Turkmen government who attempt to put an end to civil activities of its nationals abroad.
Taking into account that Turkmenistan has a long record of severely punishing peaceful critics of its government, forcibly returning activists to Turkmenistan would place them at grave risk of persecution, including a high risk of arbitrary arrest, torture and even enforced disappearance.
The dramatic situation is illustrated by a number of recent cases. This is not a full list because not everyone is willing to disclose their situation out of concern for safety of their families as the Turkmen authorities are pressuring family members of Turkey-based activists because of their civil activism. *
When detaining Turkmen migrants the police refer to a list of 25 individuals, which was allegedly handed over to them by Turkmenistan’s Consulate with a request for their detention and deportation.
Neither the activists nor Turkish lawyers representing them are capable of convincing the Turkish police to release the list of 25 activists and the legal grounds for their detention.
Turkmen human rights defenders have a list of 13 individuals (№44/05-5490 dated 1 August), which was sent by the Turkmen Consulate to the Turkish police.
Despite statements of Turkmen activists and international human rights defenders, the Turkish authorities sided with employees of Turkmenistan’s Consulate. The latter, in turn, are engaged in falsification of trumped-up complaints against their fellow countrymen, based on which the Turkish police arbitrarily and illegally detain Turkmen migrants and threaten to deport them.
In addition, there are numerous alarming reports that Turkmen nationals supporters of Berdymukhammedov’s regime regularly attack Turkmen civil activists in Turkey with threats of reprisals on their family members. The Turkish law enforcement authorities do not respond to these criminal actions, which contributes to impunity and new assaults. **
There is also evidence that supporters of the Turkish authorities have routinely threatened and harassed female activists in Turkey, and regularly intimidate young activists on the phone and on the Internet.
They intimidate activists and their relatives with serious threats, up to a murder, both in Turkey and Turkmenistan.Activists have repeatedly contacted the Turkish police presenting screenshots of the threats, given names of perpetrators but the police do not undertake any action.
These incidents of attacks and intimidation are outrageous examples of persecuting activists by foreign nationals in Turkey, which clearly violate the laws of Turkey and of international law. Lack of action by the Turkish law enforcement authorities in connection with this criminal wrongdoing cannot be justified and is unlawful.
We call on the Turkish authorities:
to halt any plans to deport detained Turkmen activists to Turkmenistan, ensure they have access to a lawyer and immediately release them from deportation custody and allow them to continue with their steps to regularize their status in Turkey;
to promptly carry out an effective investigation of incidents of attacks on and intimidation of Turkmen activists in Turkey and hold those responsible accountable.
We hope that Turkey will abide by the rule of law and for the sake of their geopolitical interests will not pressure Turkmen activists and cover up for those violating the law on its territory, at the behest of Turkmen authorities.
The Turkish authorities must abide by its international obligations and the fundamental principle of non-refoulement which obliges states to ensure that they do not send anyone to a place where they face a real risk of torture or other ill-treatment.
Turkey is bound by its obligations to protect fundamental rights and freedoms of people on its territory, ensure they are not persecuted and should not be complicit in gross violations of human rights.
We urge intergovernmental organizations and Turkey’s international partners to draw their attention to this burning situation and call on Ankara to abide by its obligations under international law and prevent deportation of Turkmen civil activists to Turkmenistan, including those who are now in custody.
Annadurdy Khadjiev, the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, email@example.com
Farid Tukhbatullin, the Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights, firstname.lastname@example.org
Juri Dzibladze, the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights,
Vyacheslav Mamedov, Turkmen Civil Democratic Union,
Ruslan Myatiyev, Turkmen.News,
Тimur Misrikhanov, Turkmenistan’s Independent Lawyers Association,
Kate Watters, Crude Accountability,
Ivar Dale, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee,
Olga Zakharova, Freedom Files,
Krassimir Kanev, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee,
Valentin Gefter, expert with the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights under the RF President.
For more information contact:
Khadjiev, the Turkmen Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, email@example.com
Tukhbatullin, TIHR, firstname.lastname@example.org
Examples of persecution of Turkmen activists in Turkey
* On 27 September a civil activist Dursoltan Taganova was detained and placed in a deportation centre, allegedly because the Migration Office did not have a document confirming that she holds temporary refugee status legalizing her stay in Turkey despite the fact that the status has been previously granted by the Migration Office.
Only on 12 October, after publication of appeals by human rights defenders and the interference of a lawyer, Taganova was released under the pretext of “a misunderstanding”.
In mid October she was again summoned to the Migration Office where officials tried to convince her to revoke her refugee application which guarantees that she will not be deported
In September, 2021 in the presence of witnesses, activist Aziz Mamedov submitted his passport to the Turkmen Consulate for extension. Since then he has visited the Consulate three times, but diplomats do not return the document claiming it has been lost.
The lawyer is denied access to the Consulate.Furthermore, every time the activist appears at the Consulate, diplomats call the police.
On 18 October, 2021 a 47 year old Akhmed Rakhmanov was sent to a deportation centre soon after he had visited the Migration Office in Antalya to extend his residence permit.
Rakhmanov, the administrator of an online chat group for a Turkmen political opposition group-in-exile, Democratic Choice of Turkmenistan, has repeatedly criticized the Turkmen regime on YouTube and TikTok and gave comments to the Turkmen Service of Radio Liberty.
He was kept in the Tuzla deportation facility where he went on hunger strike on 22 October, 2021.
Later the same day a 35 year old Kamil Abulov was taken from his apartment in Istanbul.Abulov’s spouse was informed by law enforcement officers that the Turkish authorities have a list of 25 names of Turkmen activists in Turkey who are at risk of detention at the behest of the Turkmenistan’s Consulate.
Abulov was also placed in the Tuzla deportation centre.He is known to be one of the Turkmen activists who had previously been detained by the Turkish police after a failed rally attempt in front of Turkmenistan’s Consulate in Istanbul on 1 August.
On 26 and 27 October, 2021 after HRW’s appeal and the lawyer’s interference both were released.
Police officers were looking for three other Turkmen activists, including Merdan Badrov, at their place of registration in Istanbul on 20 October, 2021 in order to detain them. Fortunately, they were not at home.
On 22 October, 2021 Bayram Allaliyev was detained in Istanbul Migration Office to which he had been summoned to file for a renewal of his residence permit. While he was filling in the documents, law enforcement officers detained him. He is currently being held in the Pendik deportation centre.
** On 1 August, 2021 with the collusion of employees of Turkmenistan’s Consulate a violent incident occurred when several activists were beaten in front of the Consulate by unidentified officials. Two of the victims had to seek medical help because one of them sustained an injury to his head with a heavy implement. There is reasonable evidence that the attackers are connected to Consulate staff because when asked to return a telephone confiscated from the beaten activist Aziz Mamedov, the attackers said that they could collect it in the Consulate. The victims recognized the assaulter on dashboard camera footage.
In addition, activist Farkhad Durdyev told human rights defenders that during the incident he was tricked into entering the Consulate area and was beaten.In connection with these attacks the activists are collaborating with lawyers and intend to resolve this issue by legal means.
On 11 October, 2021 two activists and a visitor to the office of the Association of Oghuz Culture, Cooperation and Education in Istanbul were attacked by unidentified individuals.
This happened after activists had given an interview to a British journalist.The bag with a telephone and documents was stolen from the Chairperson of the Association of Oghuz Culture Nurmukhamed Annayev.
Civil activist Aziz Mamedov was severely punched in the face.First aid was rendered to the assault’s victims.The activists claim that one of the attackers resembles a person, who had assaulted Turkmen protesters in Istanbul on 1 August, 2021.
This time, according to them, he had “an implement which looked like a metal knuckle duster” in his hands.The activists believe that the assault is related to the upcoming trip of Nurmukhamed Annayev to the ODIHR/OSCE event scheduled to take place in Warsaw on 14-15 October, where he was going to give a speech criticizing the Turkmen regime.
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