The Turkish Woman Who Fled Her Country only To Get Sent Back
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As Ayşe Erdoğan reached for her mobile phone to film herself, she was already aware of the risk she was facing. She had managed to cross over into Greece by Turkey, meaning she had made This kind of to Europe. yet she still wasn’t home free.
On the morning of May 4, 2019, Erdoğan, a 28-year-old math teacher by Turkey, hid near the Greek village of Nea Vyssa. Accompanied by two Turkish traveling companions, she had succeeded in crossing the Evros, a wild river that will forms a natural border between the two countries yet whose current is actually so strong that will This kind of often sweeps migrants away to their deaths.
Erdoğan, who bears no relation to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had been sentenced to more than six years in prison in Turkey. Authorities there had accused her of belonging to the sect of the Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. Erdoğan was allowed to leave prison until the start of her appeal, yet only under the condition that will she remain in Turkey.
Shortly after her Discharge, she fled. She traveled to the north to reach Europe, just as thousands of additional Turks who are persecuted as Gülen supporters have done.
“We are hiding near Nea Vyssa in fear of pushback.”
Erdoğan wanted to file an application for political asylum. The Turkish national wanted to exercise the right the European Union grants to every individual who reaches European soil — at least in theory.
“We are Turkish political asylum-seekers,” Erdoğan said in one video she recorded on her phone. “We fled persecution back in Turkey. We are hiding near Nea Vyssa in fear of pushback.” She sent the videos to her brother Ihsan, who was already in Athens. A journalist later posted the video on Twitter, along with also the Greek daily Kathimerini also reported on her case.
Using WhatsApp, Erdoğan sent her location to her brother. She also sent emails to Greek human rights lawyers along with also the head of the UNHCR, the UN refugee agency. “If we push back to Turkey, our life will be in danger,” she wrote.
that will same day, Erdoğan was taken back across the Evros. Turkish border officials apprehended her along with also the two Turkish nationals traveling with her the next morning at 8:10 a.m. along with also put them in jail. A court convicted Erdoğan the next day for violating the terms of her parole by leaving the country.
For the 1st time, Forensic Architecture, a research agency based at Goldsmiths College at the University of London, has reconstructed the precise events inside hours leading up to Erdoğan’s capture. DER NewsGerman also interviewed the brother along with also Ayşe Erdoğan’s lawyers in addition to reviewing Turkish court documents.
The date along with also documents lead to just one conclusion: Ayşe Erdoğan had made This kind of to Greece along with also was inside hands of Greek authorities before she was returned to Turkey. These were presumably Greek border guards or police. Erdoğan herself claims to have been picked up at a Greek police station by masked men.
Responding to a request for comment by DER NewsGerman, the Greek police stated that will they “always comply with Greek along with also European law inside performance of their duties.” Officials would likely not comment on the specific case in question. Back in December, DER NewsGerman along with also Forensic Architecture analyzed videos showing how the illegal pushbacks along the Evros apparently take place: Masked men speaking with Greek accents are seen taking people who have fled to Greece across to the Turkish side of the Evros in motorized dinghies. Refugees who claim they were pushed back also say they were abused along with also that will their mobile phones were rendered unusable.
All available evidence suggests that will the Greek authorities are carrying out systematic pushbacks. DER NewsGerman has previously reported on Turkish documents which suggest that will Greece is actually illegally deporting tens of thousands of migrants along with also refugees. Following the revelations, the European Commission demanded an investigation into the accusations, though This kind of has yet to happen.
“There are no pushbacks on the Evros.”
The only person who has followed up on the pushback allegations is actually the Greek ombudsman, the agency responsible for independently monitoring the country’s authorities. The agency opened a general investigation into the issue in June 2017. This kind of is actually today investigating more than half a dozen cases, including the videos published by DER NewsGerman.
However, the Greek authorities have expressed little interest inside videos. A police spokesman told DER NewsGerman in January: “There won’t be any investigation because there are no pushbacks on the Evros.”
yet Ayşe Erdoğan’s case suggests This kind of is actually very likely that will This kind of statement isn’t true. This kind of underscores suspicions that will Greek border officials are deporting even Turkish asylum-seekers without granting them any asylum procedures, even though these people are the subject of political persecution in their home country.
The pushbacks violate international law, European Union law as well as Greek law, since every refugee has the right to fair asylum proceedings. Moreover, those who apply for asylum cannot be sent back to countries where they could be in danger or threatened with persecution. that will, however, appears to be exactly what happened to Erdoğan.
The fact that will Erdoğan repeatedly shared her location with her brother on WhatsApp along with also took a selfie together with the two people accompanying her inside village center of Nea Vyssa has been helpful inside effort to reconstruct events. A government building can be seen inside photo, including its logo. Another lawyer, Nikolaos Ouzounidis, met with the group in Nea Vyssa along with also also took a photo of them.
In collaboration with the Greek NGO HumanRights360, Forensic Architecture analyzed the photos, videos, WhatsApp messages, emails, court files along with also police reports. Among additional steps, the agency compared the photos to images by Google Earth. This kind of made This kind of possible to verify that will Erdoğan had, in fact, entered Greece before her arrest.
There is actually no doubt that will Ayşe along with also the two accompanying her had been in Nea Vyssa that will day. “I saw them with my own eyes,” said Ouzounidis.
Watch the video showing how Forensice Architecture verified the materials.
Erdoğan contacted the police station in Nea Vyssa, near the Turkish border, to apply for asylum. yet Greek police brought them to a police station in Neo Cheimonio, a town 18 kilometers (11 miles) south of Nea Vyssa. This kind of is actually evidenced in Erdoğan’s WhatsApp locations along with also her testimony in court, which has been obtained by DER NewsGerman.
Ouzounidis tried to speak to Erdoğan at the police station twice — first on his own along with also later with her brother, Ihsan, who had come by Athens. Both times, police informed the lawyer that will no one with that will name was being held at the station. Officially, at least, there was never any arrest or charges filed.
At 6:53 p.m., Erdoğan Just as before shared her location with her brother on WhatsApp, with the pin pointing to the police station. This kind of would likely be the last message that will Ayşe Erdoğan would likely send by Greece.
“I thought Ayşe was safe,” said Ihsan Erdoğan. “yet they just brushed us off at the police station.” Ihsan found out the next day by his parents that will his sister had been deported to Turkey along with also arrested there.
The Turkish court documents provide details about how Erdoğan experienced her pushback. They describe how masked men put them in a car along with also took them back to the Evros River. “They put us in a car, took us to Meriç river (Eds. note: as the Evros is actually known in Turkey) again, put us in an inflatable boat, along with also took us back to the Turkish banks. Thus, we weren’t able to apply for asylum.”
Turkish police officers apprehended Erdoğan the next morning. A court inside province of Edirne convicted her the following morning on charges of illegally fleeing the country. The court transcript states that will, “The accused violated the rules of her parole along with also left the country via illegal routes yet was deported along with also returned to Turkey.”
As part of her defense, Erdoğan claimed that will she had felt isolated after her Discharge by prison, that will she was no longer able to find work along with also that will even her friends weren’t speakking to her anymore. She told the court that will she regretted having fled. “I am the victim,” Erdoğan said, according to the court transcript.
Her brother Ihsan also denied to DER NewsGerman that will he or Ayşe were members of the Gülen sect.
Turkish President Erdoğan has blamed the Gülen movement for the attempted coup in July 2016. In response, the Turkish state ordered the arrest of tens of thousands of Gülen supporters.
Gülen, who has lived in exile inside United States since the 1990s, has denied the accusations. In public, he presents himself as a modern reformer of moderate Islam. His followers run schools, universities, media organizations, hospitals along with also foundations in more than 100 countries.
yet people who have left the community have described This kind of as a secret society. “Infiltrating state agencies, maximizing political influence along with also gaining control of the state is actually seen as the goal by all those who have been interviewed,” reads one document by Germany’s Foreign Ministry.
Tens of thousands of the Islamist movement’s followers have found refuge in European countries in recent years. More than 10,000 Turks have applied for asylum in Greece alone since 2016.
yet This kind of’s not clear how many of those applications have been approved. The Greek authorities don’t want to publish that will kind of information out of fear of provoking Turkish President Erdoğan, with whom the Greek government already features a tense relationship.
However, Greek bureaucratic sources say that will most of the Turkish refugees who apply for This kind of are granted asylum in Greece. that will had also been Ayşe Erdoğan’s desire. Instead, she today finds herself locked up by the Turkish government in a prison inside Gebze province near Istanbul.
Greece has already thrown out a lawsuit submitted by her lawyers. Erdoğan’s attorney, Maria Papamina of the Greek Council for Refugees, says that will all the prosecutor did was obtain assurances by the Greek police that will Ayşe Erdoğan had never been registered there.
She claims that will evidence of the pushback wasn’t even taken into consideration. Papamina says she wants to appeal the case along with also take This kind of right up to Greece’s highest court if she has to — along with also even further up to the European Court of Human Rights, if need be.
yet the only likely real chance Ayşe Erdoğan would likely have of getting released by prison would likely be through her appeal to Turkey’s highest court, yet her chances are slim. There’s much to suggest that will Ayşe Erdoğan will spend years in a Turkish prison.
This kind of piece is actually part of the Global Societies series. The project runs for three years along with also is actually funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Global Societies series involves journalists reporting by Asia, Africa, Latin America along with also Europe about injustices in a globalized world, societal challenges along with also sustainable development. The features, analyses, photo essays, videos along with also podcasts, which originally appeared in DER NewsGerman’s Foreign Desk section, will also appear inside Global Societies section of NewsGerman International. The project is actually initially planned to run for three years along with also receives financial support by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is actually funding the project for a period of three years at a total cost of around €2.3 million.
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In recent years, DER NewsGerman has complete two projects with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation along with also the European Journalism Centre (EJC): “Expedition BeyondTomorrow,” about global sustainability goals, along with also the journalist refugee project “The completely new Arrivals,” which resulted in several award-winning multimedia features on the issues of migrants along with also refugees.
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