OPINION: A New Normal For Dictatorships — Spreading Fear Through Embassies?


Emrullah Uslu Turkish academic and journalist in exile
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Jamal Khashoggi  — a well-known Saudi journalist — went into his country’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain a marriage document and, according to Turkish police, never came out.

Khashoggi once was an adviser to the royal family who became a vocal critic of the Saudi government and who went into self-imposed exile last year.

Turkish authorities believe that he was killed in the consulate. A Turkish criminal investigation team is focusing on seven suspects who were filmed near the gulf country’s consulate in Istanbul.

After Russians used special intelligence officers to target dissidents abroad, news of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance inside an embassy became the next example of government officials targeting dissidents. We need to pay closer attention to the activity of foreign consulates around the world.

Is it a new normal for dictatorships to spread fear through their embassies and beyond their borders? Khashoggi’s murder case requires promoting discussion of the illegal activities going on in foreign consulates controlled under diplomatic immunity around the world.

How did Turkish consulates become a vehicle for spreading fear of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime around the world?

It is ironic that a foreign dissident journalist would be kidnapped in a Turkish consulate within Turkey, a country that has committed similar acts and that regularly uses consulates and embassies to kidnap its own citizens.

Just like the Saudi regime, since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became the president of Turkey in 2014, his regime has been effectively using Turkish consulates to silence his critics.

For example, Turkish consulates confiscate the passports of Turkish dissidents if they come to the consulate for any reason, they deny issuing passports, they deny registering citizenship to newborn Turkish babies, and they share dissidents’ addresses with Turkey’s state-owned news agency, Anadolu Ajansi, and Erdoğan’s goons to harass them.

Turkey also commonly practices kidnapping operations against Erdoğan’s opponents around the world, for which they commonly use Turkish consulates to conduct such operations. Thus, many Turkish dissidents avoid Turkish consulates

Turkish Intelligence Agency MIT abducted six dissidents — Gulen followers – from Kosovo and kept them inside the Turkish consulate in Pristina and shared their pictures with the press while inside the Turkish consulate building before transferring them to Turkey.

In another separate incident from a reporter at Turkish newspaper “Today’s Zaman,” Arslan Ayan’s passport was forcibly confiscated in Turkeys’ New York Consulate in September 2016. After the incident, Ayan tweeted that his passport was forcibly taken from him without cause, and he was offered a single-use travel paper to go back to Turkey.

Ayan told his friend he was beaten inside to consulate. He feared that he could be abducted and taken back to Turkey.

In yet another case, permanent businessman and Erdoğan dissident who resides in London, Akin Ipek’s wife, Nevin Ipek’s passport was confiscated at a Turkish consulate on Jun 2, 2016. She, too, feared that she would be abducted.

Whenever they are criticized for arbitrary misuse of power against Turkish dissidents, Turkish authorities use the coup d’état attempt that took place on July 15–16, 2016, as an excuse to legitimize their conduct. The reality, however, is much different. Arbitrary misuse of power started before the July 2016 coup attempt. For instance, Nevin Ipek’s passport was canceled a month before the coup attempt.

Before the coup attempt, Turkish authorities were canceling dissents’ passports which would force them to go to Turkish consulates to solve the problem, where they could have been abducted or forced to return to Turkey.

At the time, an Interpol official stated the following: “Unfortunately, Turkey has been forging documents and reports many people’s passports lost. This is a very common practice in third world countries and others ruled by dictatorships. This practice was not very common in Turkey until the last a few years. We do not trust such [lost] reports of Turkey anymore.”

Another case took place in Tanzania. Turkish Journalist Kamil Maman who fled to Tanzania shared his first-hand observation with me that After Erdoğan’s pressure on Tanzania’s government Turkish teachers affiliated with the Gulen movement faced difficulties, including a newborn baby who was not registered to Turkish citizens.

I, as a Turkish dissident myself, fear visiting the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C. When my wife visited the Turkish embassy in early 2016, they asked for our home address and my wife’s passport to process the routine procedure for providing a document, which normally does not require providing a passport.

Because we knew that they would confiscate and cancel it, she gave our home address but did not give her passport to the consulate workers. Because she did not provide the passport, the Washington consulate did not provide the document my wife requested.

After her visit to the Turkish embassy in D.C., someone from the embassy shared our address with the state-owned news agency Anadolu Ajsansi, which acts as an arm of Turkish Intelligence MIT. Recently, the agency sent a provocateur/reporter to my home. I have been harassed by a reporter and regime’s supporters many times.

There are hundreds of well-documented cases detailing how Turkey uses its consulate services to punish dissidents. It is not at the level of killing a journalist in a consulate, but it is coming very close.

I hope Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s unfortunate murder will shed light upon the criminal activities conducted in the consulates of Turkey and many other dictatorships around the world, and I hope more recognition will end the crime committed under the immunity of diplomatic missions.

Dr. Emrullah Uslu is a Turkish academic and journalist in exile. Currently, he is a faculty at the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia International University, Fairfax, Virginia.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.