A new allegation of enforced disappearance in Turkey emerged at the beginning of 2021 as Hüseyin Galip Küçüközyiğit, a former civil servant dismissed from his job due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, was reported missing. His daughter, Nursena Küçüközyiğit, has been trying to lodge a criminal complaint saying he was abducted on Dec. 29. However, authorities in the northwestern city of Kocaeli, notably the public prosecutor’s office and the police department, did not receive the complaint, according to a report by Bold Medya.
Küçüközyiğit was one of some 130,000 people purged from the civil service after an abortive military coup in July 2016 for their purported ties to the Gülen group, which the Turkish government accused of having orchestrated the failed putsch.
Küçüközyiğit last spoke by phone to his daughter Nursena on Dec. 29 at around 3:30 p.m. about their new year’s plans. His coworkers were the last people to have seen him. About 4 p.m. he left his colleagues to visit a friend in Ankara’s Gölbaşı district, taking off from an office facing the Maltepe Mosque in a Mazda 323 with license plate 34 FNF 28. His cell phone stopped receiving signals at 4:23 pm.
Nursena Küçüközyiğit says her father was unemployed for a long time after being expelled from public service and was held in detention for six months for his alleged Gülen links. After he was released, he set up a business to offer legal advice to other purged public sector workers, which Nursena believes might have been the reason her father was abducted.
‘Black Transporter incidents’
Post-coup enforced disappearances are known in Turkey as “Black Transporter incidents,” referring to the black Volkswagen Transporter vans that were involved in many of the cases in which there were eyewitnesses or family members managed to acquire security camera footage of the abductions.
According to opposition MP and prominent human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, enforced disappearances are the most concerning human rights violations that have occurred since the failed coup, convinced by the accounts given by some of the victims who resurfaced months after they went missing. Some have spoken out in court, recounting the systematic and severe torture they were subjected to during their interrogation by pro-government forces, who, victims said, waited until their wounds had healed to hand them over to the police. Of nearly 30 people abducted since the attempted coup, three remain unaccounted for.
Nursena thinks her father was yet another victim of the notorious black vans and is worried that he might be tortured for months. She says they have filed criminal complaints with the police and the prosecutor’s office and that they will also notify the Human Rights Association (İHD), the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights. Nursena insists that her father has a brilliant career and that he has done nothing wrong.
Nursena launched the Twitter account @NeredeBabam (Where is my father) on which she started to campaign about her father’s disappearance. She says she had heard her father talk about abducted individuals in the past and that she cannot even stand reading about the gruesome experiences of those who disappeared.
Nursena says they have repeatedly called the police, who simply say, “We are unable to provide any information.” Families of other victims were also faced with the same attitude by the police, who were reluctant to investigate and collect evidence. Relatives of Yusuf Bilge Tunç, another former civil servant who was reported missing in August 2019, had tried unsuccessfully for three months to have the authorities conduct a fingerprint search on Tunç’s vehicle. The United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances in its reports emphasized that the Turkish authorities were not pursuing the necessary investigative tracks.
A promising bureaucrat
Küçüközyiğit is a graduate of one of the country’s most prestigious law schools, at Ankara University. He also holds a master’s degree from Germany, and after his studies, was appointed as European Union coordinator at the Turkish National Agency. He was a legal adviser for the then-prime ministry when he was removed from his job in August 2016.
The ranch: Torture center
According to the testimony of some of the victims, the abductees are being taken to a center known as “the ranch” (çiftlik in Turkish). Gülen-linked abductees as well as Kurds brought from Syria were reportedly tortured there.
Ayten Öztürk, Zabit Kişi, Gökhan Türkmen, Yasin Ugan, Mesut Geçer, Önder Asan and Ümit Horzum recounted in court months-long brutal interrogation.
While the victims often remained unheard from for months, some were ultimately handed over to the police. Some of the abductees remain missing. Sunay Elmas, Ayhan Oran, and Yusuf Bilge Tunç are still unaccounted for. Hüseyin Galip Küçüközyiğit now has been added to the list.
Sunay Elmas – January 27, 2016
Ayhan Oran – November 1, 2016
Mustafa Özgür Gültekin – December 21, 2016
Durmuş Ali Çetin – May 17, 2017
Hüseyin Kötüce – February 28, 2017
Mesut Geçer – March 26, 2017
Turgut Çapan – March 31, 2017
Önder Asan – April 1, 2017
Cengiz Usta – April 4, 2017
Mustafa Özben – May 9, 2017
Fatih Kılıç – May 14, 2017
Cemil Koçak – June 5, 2017
Murat Okumuş – June 16, 2017
Enver Kılıç – September 30, 2017
Zabit Kişi – September 30, 2017
Hıdır Çelik – December 6, 2017
Ümit Horzum – December 6, 2017
Ayten Öztürk – March 13, 2018
Orçun Şenyücel – April 21, 2018
Hasan Kala – July 20, 2018
Fahri Mert – August 12, 2018
Ahmet Ertürk – November 16, 2018
Gökhan Türkmen – February 7, 2019
Yasin Ugan – February 12, 2019
Özgür Kaya – February 12, 2019
Erkan Irmak – February 16, 2019
Mustafa Yılmaz – February 18, 2019
Salim Zeybek – February 20, 2019
Yusuf Bilge Tunç – August 6, 2019
Hüseyin Galip Küçüközyiğit – December 29, 2020