Human Rights Watch’s new report sheds light on Turkey’s aggressive strategy to target dissidents of Turkish nationality abroad, detailing abductions and disappearances in several countries.

Turkish intelligence services have been bypassing judicial rulings and legal procedures to abduct, bring back to Turkey, and detain dissidents of Turkish nationality from several countries, according to a new report released by Human Rights Watch (HRW).The New York-based international NGO has released a comprehensive report entitled “We Will Find You“: A Global Look at How Governments Repress Nationals Abroad. The 46-page document provides an in-depth analysis of the methods governments use to target dissidents, activists and political opponents living abroad from a human rights perspective. Turkey features prominently in the report, with HRW detailing Ankara’s efforts to persecute nationals abroad, particularly those allegedly linked to the Fethullah Gülen movement, a religious group that Turkey accuses of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in 2016 and designates as a terrorist organisation.

The report specifically addresses “disappearances and enforced disappearances” of Turkish nationals abroad. It cites cases where Turkish authorities have been directly involved in the abduction of individuals from countries with varying degrees of rule of law.

Among the cases highlighted is that of Ayten Öztürk, who was tried in 2019 for links to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), was forcibly taken from Beirut airport in 2018 and subjected to months of disappearance and torture before being officially recognised by Turkish police.

Similarly, the incidents in 2021 involving Selahaddin Gülen, the nephew of Fethullah Gülen, who disappeared in Kenya despite a deportation order from Turkey and was later seen in handcuffs in Ankara, and Orhan İnandı, accused of links to the Gülen movement, who disappeared in Kyrgyzstan with Turkish involvement and then reappeared in Ankara a week later, illustrate Turkey’s efforts to repatriate individuals it accuses of having links to the Gülen movement in defiance of international legal standards and court rulings.

The HRW report highlights a disturbing trend following the attempted military coup in Turkey on 15 July 2016. The 2018 admission by the then-deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozdağ, that Turkish intelligence had abducted 80 Turkish nationals from 18 countries reveals the global scope of this campaign. The report also draws attention to more recent abductions.

The report details the enforced disappearance of Tajik opposition figures Suhrob Zafar and Nasimjon Sharipov in Istanbul at the request of the Tajik authorities, highlighting a grim pattern of collaboration between Turkey and other governments to silence dissent beyond its borders.