Authorities in Turkey arrested and deported at least 50 Nigerian university students from various Turkish universities last week, in connection to the July 15th coup attempt.
Many of the students were arrested at the airport after landing in Turkey and they say the police gave no official reasons for their arrests. Local Nigerian newspaper ThisDay reports that one of the students, Rukkaya Usman, claims she was arrested at the airport as soon as she arrived in Turkey. Usman said she was detained with eight other students for more than 10 hours without being formally charged by Turkish police. Eventually, they were forced to sign deportation documents.
“I got to Turkey on the 26th of September at about 8 a.m. and immigration didn’t allow me to pass.They were asking, ‘Where are you from? Where are you schooling?’ Finally, they took me to a room and asked me to wait. My passport and resident permit were with them,” Usman explained.
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“They gave me a paper to sign, and I refused to sign because I didn’t know what they had written on the paper. They locked us inside a room. We were not allowed to go out [and] we were not allowed to see anyone. We were just inside the room like criminals. The place is just like a prison,” she added.
Usman revealed that Turkish authorities seized her passport, forcefully put her on a plane, and sent her back to Nigeria. She didn’t get her passport back until she landed back.
“They deported me for no reason. They treated me like a criminal. I am supposed to be in my final year and my resident permit is valid and is supposed to expire next year in September after I’ve graduated. So, honestly, I am offended because whatever business the Turkish government has with the proprietor of our school shouldn’t be affecting me as a student of the school,” Usman said.
Usman is a Political and International Relations student at Meliksah University, which is one of many private institutions, schools, hospitals, and businesses that were shut down by Turkish authorities for their alleged connection to Fethullah Gullen, an exiled, U.S.-based Islamic preacher, who the Turkish government believes is responsible for the failed coup attempt.
On July 15th, a contingent of Turkish soldiers — the government now believes were inspired by Gullen — attempted a coup to overthrow the government of President Racep Tayyip Erdogan. However, the coup failed thanks to the efforts of Turkish police, local media houses, politicians, and citizens, who were urged by President Erdogan to take to the streets in “defense of democracy.”
Following the coup attempt, President Erdogan launched an extensive purge, targeting all individuals or institutions connected with Gullen, effectively branding his organisation, the Gullen Movement, as a terrorist organization. Later that month, the Turkish embassy in Nigeria called on the Nigerian authorities to shut down a group of 17 Gullen-affiliated schools based in Nigeria for allegedly being involved in a network of terror-related activities.
Reacting to the deportation of the students, Sola Enikanolaiye, a senior official at the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told online newspaper the Cable, that the ministry had already summoned the Turkish Ambassador Hakan Cakil to Nigeria, to explain Turkey’s mistreatment of the Nigerian students.