I am enrolled in an ECG 200 class, called Human Rights in Turkey. In this class, we talk about the current dictatorship in Turkey and how he is oppressing citizens and imprisoning innocent people and their families, relentlessly. Some of these citizens are able to escape, however, others are not so lucky. Media groups, businessmen, teachers, anyone could be arrested and forced into a holding cell for several months before even knowing why they were imprisoned and then finding out the government thought they may be suspicious of being a Fettulah Gulen supporter. Gulen is a man known for trying to spread democracy in Turkey and also providing better education for Turkish youth.
A family who left Turkey and escaped to Sudan before being imprisoned, who then moved to California, and are currently living in New Jersey. They told us that when they moved to Sudan, a country in North Africa, they lived there for 10 years and realized that Turkey was starting to pressure this country to close Gulen schools and arrest the teachers at these schools. However, now the government controls these schools. Fellow businessmen, coworkers, and friends of the husband have been jailed. His wife had her passport taken for weeks before getting it back. Luckily, Sudan does not have good technology, they have to manually call immigration to see if someone is in the country or not.
Their transition into the United States was easier since they spoke English in Sudan, but the infrastructure, companies, and the economy are all different here, so he had to find a different job. His wife was not working in Sudan, but she has more work opportunities here than she did while she was in Sudan. In addition, they are in touch with their family, but a lot of their friends are not in touch with them since they have been imprisoned. Most of the friends they are in touch with have lost their jobs. However, they are not in touch with people who are involved in the Gulen Movement.
They feel that even if Gulen, known for trying to spread democracy in Turkey and end the dictatorship, had started the recent military coup, they are not responsible for his actions, even if they supported his movement. The husband went to Gulen schools, but that does not make him responsible for any of his actions. However, it is believed that the coup was staged by Erdogan, the President, himself. Yet, he is blaming Gulen and all of his followers and anyone who seems associated with his movement, him, or his followers. All of these people will be arrested and put in prison, where the sick are not cared for, children are born and stay imprisoned, and people are tortured.
When asked what they would like us to say on their behalf on our trip to Washington D.C. they said how Turkish citizens are having their basic human rights violated. As stated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to live, no one should be tortured, everyone is born with rights and freedoms, not to be arrested randomly. All of the articles of this declaration can be found here. The judges that determine the outcome of someone’s arrest are controlled by the government, so it is inevitable that those that are arrested will definitely go to jail.
Unfortunately, due to this virus that is spreading, we are unable to visit Washington D.C. with an advocacy group to explain what is going on in Turkey and tell the congressman about real, personal accounts. We would have asked the congressmen what they are going to do about these human rights violations and that Turkish people in the United States are worried about populism in the United States to lead to a dictatorship rather than democracy.