Central Asian migrants caught in Turkey’s anti-terror raids

For The Los Angeles Times:

The last time Anurkhol Bipolotov saw her husband, Fakhriddin, was across a street, outside a police station in Istanbul, on March 9.

“He couldn’t speak, and I asked to speak with him, but they shouted, ‘You cannot speak.’ Then they sent him to Uzbekistan,” she recalled. “Now I have no idea where he is.”

That night, Turkish counter-terrorism police conducted 10 simultaneous raids across Istanbul, based on an anonymous tip placed to a hotline set up to report suspicious activity. Sixty-nine people, all but two foreigners, were taken into custody, suspected of being Islamic State members. Among them were 17 women and 29 children, including Bipolotov and her three children. None were ever charged with a terrorism-related crime.

Raids like these are increasingly common in Turkey, which has been under a state of emergency since July 2016. More than 50,000 people are in prison, many suspected of being involved in a failed coup last year or having ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which the government considers a terrorist group, or Islamic State, which Turkey had long been accused of ignoring.

In a single week this month, Turkish police carried out more than 1,400 raids across the country, detaining more than 1,167 people suspected of belonging to terrorist groups, and an additional 6,890 for being in the country illegally.

“Turkey is doing more about Islamic State than they did a few years ago, which is good, but how many innocent people are being caught up in it, we don’t know,” said Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based security analyst with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute. “Because of the state of emergency, they can cast the net very widely, and anybody remotely possibly connected to Islamic State can be kept in prison or deported, without having to worry about evidence.”

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