Turkey continues arbitrary passport cancellations

The passports of tens of thousands of people have been confiscated or cancelled with the implementation of the decree law passed after the declaration of the state of emergency following the 15 July coup attempt in Turkey.

The decree law was supposed to apply to “those under investigation for belonging to structures, formations or groups posing a threat to national security or members of terrorist organisations, their branches or those in connection to these.”

However, many people falling outside this suspicion have had their passports cancelled including members of the Libertarian Lawyers Association (ÖHD) and journalist Hayko Bagdat.

Reports have reached the media that citizens are discovering the cancellations, reported as ‘lost’ or ‘stolen’, at passport control at airports.

Speaking to Kom News, Mulkiye Evrim*  – a teacher in Istanbul – said she was on her way to Europe to visit her husband when she was stopped at passport control at the airport.

“The police took me to a room at the airport”, Evrim explained. “They didn’t inform me about anything, they only said my passport had been cancelled. Then they took me to a police station and put me in a cell. It was a horrible experience. After an hour, they called me for interrogation but instead of listening to me, they kept on making accusations as if I wasn’t a public servant, just like them.”

On her release, Evrim contacted her trade union, the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Egitim-Sen). Through them, she learned that the same thing had happened to a friend and colleague of her’s a week before. “He was going to a conference abroad,” Evrim said. “Somehow, his passport had been cancelled, just like mine.”

In Autumn last year, 11,000 teachers, all of which were Egitim-Sen members, were suspended in Turkey. Evrim was one of them. “When I came back to my school after the summer holidays, I was informed that I had been suspended but was never told of the reasons behind the decision. I suspect it had something to do with my participation at the peace rally in Ankara because we were blacklisted there.”

After three months of suspension, Evrim started to work again but the other teachers and the school board now views her with suspicion, she says. The problems she had with the authorities have also impacted her psychology. “After the story with my passport, I cried everyday, I was looking forward to seeing my husband again, instead I had to visit all these state institutions where they made me feel like a criminal. They can play with us as they wish and the powerlessness you feel is terrible”.

*Mulkiye Evrim is a pseudonym for the woman in the story who contacted Kom News. On her request, we have kept her identity secret.