KOTA KINABALU, Aug 30 — Turkish teacher Arif Komis and his family who are protected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have been taken by the police to be deported home for prosecution, according to several human rights activists.
Turkey-based human rights website Turkeypurge.com said it received an email from eyewitnesses claiming that Komis, his wife and four children were nabbed two nights ago from their home in Kuala Lumpur and are currently being held at an immigration centre near Putrajaya where they are being processed for deportation at the request of the Turkish government.
“Mr Komis, who is a chemistry teacher, was repeatedly denied passport by the Turkish Embassy and thus given protection by the UN. He and his family are in UN protection,” Turkeypurge wrote.
According to the news portal, Komis was working at a group of schools affiliated with the Gülen movement, which Malaysia has deemed a terror group that has been accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of masterminding a failed coup attempt in 2016.
Malay Mail has contacted UNHCR and the Immigration Department to verify the allegations and is waiting for a reply.
The Komis family’s alleged arrest and possible deportation was also tweeted by human rights group Global Rights Issue and Human Rights Watch’s Asia division deputy director Phil Robertson, who urged Malaysian authorities not to send them back to Turkey where they are at danger of persecution.
“Where’s Malaysia civil society to protect this Turkish person of concern to UNHCR and family? Why is the Pakatan Harapan government violating refugee rights in this way? Why’s a simple school teacher treated so shoddily? Don’t send him back to Turkey!” Robertson tweeted, tagging Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.
Some other Twitter users replying to the post have compared and contrasted the treatment of the Turk to that of controversial Mumbai-born Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who Malaysia refuses to deport home to India where he faces money laundering and terror-related charges.
Other social media users also asked if it is acceptable for Malaysia to forcibly deport someone under UN protection.
Dr Mahathir pledged his Pakatan Harapan government’s support for the Turkish government under Erdogan during a visit to the republic last month, and said Malaysia will continue to crack down on members of the Gulen group, also known as the Gulenist Terror Organisation (Feto).
Malaysia previously extradited wanted men by the Turkish government suspected of involvement with Feto, in what Ankara claimed is a group led by US-based exile preacher Fethullah Gulen.
In 2017, three Turkish men associated with Gulen — Turgay Karaman, İhsan Aslan and İsmet Özçelik — were deported from Malaysia to Turkey despite international warnings over the risk of torture.
Ozcelik, a Turkish academic, in July was given a jail sentence of almost 10 years without even being able to present his final defence. Karaman, a school principal, was also sentenced to six years in prison the same month.
Feto is gazetted as a terror group, but only by Turkey and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation — of which Malaysia is a member. The UN objected and demanded that Turkey release the men and pay them compensation.