Kyrgyz Authorities Under Fire After Turkish “Abduction”

Experts fear that circumstances surrounding man’s disappearance will tarnish Kyrgyzstan’s image.

Kyrgyz Authorities Under Fire After Turkish “Abduction”

Experts fear that circumstances surrounding man’s disappearance will tarnish Kyrgyzstan’s image.

Wednesday, 14 July, 2021

Human rights defenders in Kyrgyzstan have criticised Bishkek’s apparent collusion with Ankara to deport a Turkish-Kyrgyz citizen, warning that this will have long-term consequences for the country’s international reputation.

Orhan Inandi, a dual Turkish-Kyrgyz citizen, went missing in Bishkek in late May. On July 5, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that he was among 11 citizens living abroad whom Turkish intelligence services had arrested for membership of a movement led by US-based imam Fethulla Gülen.

Ankara accuses Gulen of organising the failed coup of 2016 and has designated his organisation to be a terrorist movement. It has been targeting its supporters both inside and outside of Turkey. 

The Kyrgyz authorities said that they were investigating the circumstances in which Inandi disappeared, but said that they currently had no detailed information on the matter.

Inandi is the director of the Sapat educational network, the Ala-Too University - formerly known as Ataturk-Ala-Too - as well as one international school.

Sapat representatives have always denied that their schools had any formal link to religious scholar Fethullah, although they have been clear that his philosophy had inspired them to launch and develop the educational network. 

According to the government press service, Kyrgyz president Sadyr Zhaparov raised the issue of Inandi during a June 9-11 official visit to Ankara, where Erdogan reportedly told him that he was unaware of his whereabouts.

Inandi has been a Kyrgyz citizen since 2012,  and critics have accused the Kyrgyz authorities of having had knowledge of the plan to abduct him but failing to prevent it.

Rights defender Aziza Abdirasulova said that the state had had a responsibility towards Inandi.

“Why grant him citizenship if you cannot protect him? They should not have granted citizenship to Orhan if he was extradited after all,” she said. “It’s like adopting a child and then leaving him.”

Experts also warn that the incident will have a negative impact on Kyrgyzstan’s image.

“No one in the international arena will see us as a free country,” said Rita Karasartova, a prominent human rights defender and opposition politician, warning that this would make Kyrgyzstan a magnet for corruption.

“We can become a ‘laundromat’ for dirty money, dirty tricks, speculations, schemes, etc.”

Inandi’s wife told local media that he had always been told by the authorities that he had nothing to fear and so continued to work in Kyrgyzstan. She did not specify whether these reassurances had also been issued by the new government that came to power in October 2020.

Karasartova said that previous presidents Almazbek Atambaev and Sooronbay Zheenbekov had protected Inandi from Turkish intelligence, and said that she believed that this administration had taken the deliberate decision to allow his arrest.  

“This was a result of well-considered actions, not to be seen as a country surrendering to the whims of other countries in the international arena,” she said.

Political analyst Medet Tyulegenov also highlighted fears that the state’s international reputation had been tainted. Over the last decade, he continued, Kyrgyzstan’s image as a responsible investment partner or a worthy beneficiary of aid had deteriorated.

“After this incident, it fell even more because the authorities say one thing and probably do otherwise, which will cause even more distrust,” he said.

According to human rights defenders, even if the Kyrgyz authorities were unaware of this special operation, the fact that it took place on their sovereign territory undermines the prestige of the state, its leadership and security agencies.

Relations between Turkey and Kyrgyzstan have been rocky since the 2016 attempted coup and the previous administrations’ refusal to shut down the Sapat network of schools.

“It was originally more than just a question of protecting our citizen,” political analyst Emil Dzhuraev said, noting that recent events – including the serious conflict on the Tajik-Kyrgyz border in April - had fuelled political uncertainty. “All these things happened under the new authorities [whose policies] seem unclear to the people.”

Dzhuraev added, “I won’t be surprised if after Inandi’s capture, Turkey will again become unfriendly to our country, as it was a few years ago.”

Human rights defender Tolekan Ismailova said that Kyrgyzstan should have resisted the Turkish authorities’ effort to seize Inandi.

She noted that other countries had denied Turkish attempts to extradite people linked to the Gulenist movement. In Mongolia in July 2018, for instance, the authorities refused to allow a plane carrying a Turkish citizen to take off. At the time. the country’s foreign ministry decried Turkey’s actions as “an unacceptable act of violating the sovereignty and independence of Mongolia”.

“Both large and small countries would have more respect for our authorities if they said that there are international obligations, that people must not be extradited to the countries where they are in danger,” Ismailova said. “The president should have said, I am against torture, I am against abduction.

This publication was prepared under the "Amplify, Verify, Engage (AVE) Project" implemented with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway.

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