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Syrian human rights activist goes missing in İstanbul

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A Syrian human rights activist who has been living in Turkey since 2013 has been missing since Nov. 27, the Serbestiyet news website reported, citing a platform advocating refugee rights.

Ahmed Katie, 45, also a non-practicing lawyer, went missing after leaving his workplace in İstanbul’s Yusufpaşa neighborhood after he was reportedly summoned by the police.

A statement from the platform said Katie’s wife, Areej, filed a missing persons report for her husband with the İstanbul police on Nov. 30 after her efforts to reach and locate her husband failed. The woman demanded the police examine the security camera footage at her husband’s workplace and track his mobile phone.

She said Katie told her on the phone that he was done with work and would come straight home on the evening of Nov. 27 but that his mobile phone was turned off when she later tried to reach him. The couple has three children.

On the morning of Nov. 27 Katie had gone to Taksim in central İstanbul to collect documentation from the French consulate that he had obtained for himself and his family to travel to France, where he had applied for asylum, French newspaper Le Monde reported.

Katie reportedly told a relative that evening he had been summoned by the police but did not say where he was supposed to go.

Several people close to him told Le Monde that Katie had been pressured by Turkish authorities in recent months. In a video recorded on YouTube on Oct. 23, he explained receiving a call on Oct. 19 from someone claiming to be a member of the security services. The caller asked him to go immediately to Café Mado in Aksaray Square, close to work. There, Ahmed Katie said he found three individuals – two Turks and an Arabic-Turkish translator – who asked him to buy a SIM card in his name at a store belonging to phone service provider Turkcell, just across the street, before handing it over to them.

Katie announced in October that he was suspending human rights activism due to the threats he had received.

Taha Elgazi, a Syrian rights activist from the platform, called on Turkish authorities to ascertain Katie’s whereabouts and inform his family and the public.

The activist had been living in Turkey under temporary protection status.

Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced last month that there are 3,254,904 Syrians under temporary protection in the country, with 1,129,614 of them having received residence permits and 259,468 under international protection.

Anti-refugee sentiment is running high in Turkey, with frequent instances of attacks on mostly Syrians and their workplaces taking place across the country.

According to a June report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), titled “Hate speech and hate crimes against Syrian refugees in Turkey,” Syrians have been at the center of anti-refugee sentiment in recent years, expressed in particular on social media and often by political parties. With inflation soaring in the last few years, they have been blamed for many of Turkey’s social and economic ills.

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