The wave of arrests of suspected coup plotters and sympathisers in Turkey has spread to engulf the emigre Central Asian community, mainly people from Uzbekistan.
From early July to the current day, around 140 Central Asian citizens have been detained, RFE/RL’s Uzbek service, Ozodlik, has reported.
“On July 29, following the coup attempt, Turkish security services detained 29 citizens of Uzbekistan in Istanbul, after which another 100 Uzbek migrants were detained,” Ozodlik reported over the weekend.
The BBC Uzbek service, meanwhile, cited rights groups in Turkey as presenting other figures.
“In deportation centers in Istanbul’s Kumkapi neighborhood, they are holding 45 Uzbek families, 150 Uzbekistani citizens,” the broadcaster reported.
For all this pressure against these emigre communities, there are no confirmed reports of charges being filed.
But the BBC quotes Adam Chevlik, head of the Istanbul-based Uzbek Unity group, as saying that police is investigating the alleged involvement of eight citizens of Uzbekistan in the coup attempt. The suspects’ homes have been searched, Chevlik told the BBC.
Chevlik said that 142 citizens of Uzbekistan have been arrested and 11 released from custody. Prosecutors have ordered 88 Uzbeks to be held in custody, he said.
Concern is also mounting at the fate of those that could be forced out of the country.
Ozodlik quoted the Turkish-based People’s Movement of Uzbekistan opposition group as saying that 40 people have been ordered to leave Turkey within the month.
Exiled opposition figure Mohammed Solih told Ozodlik that many of the Uzbekistanis held in Turkey were originally compelled to leave their homeland for religious reasons. Solih called on Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch to mount a campaign to stop the potential deportations.
Unsurprisingly, media inside Uzbekistan has drawn a veil of silence over the fate of their compatriots in Turkey. In fact, anything but sympathy is forthcoming from the authorities.
Border guards have long been questioning people arriving from Turkey, particularly those they suspect of returning from fighting in Syria. There are no completely reliable figures on the number of Uzbek citizens engaged in militant activity in the Middle East, but estimates vary from the low hundreds upward.
There is another alleged flow of illegal activity stemming from Turkey that has raised the suspicion of authorities in Tashkent: counterfeit banknotes.
Russian news agency RIA-Novosti reported in July that police had broken up a ring responsible for smuggling $50,000 worth of forged US currency into Uzbekistan from Turkey.