Reaching freedom but loosing happiness

I am Turkish, father of three children and have worked as a teacher. Two of my children are strongly disabled. My family lives in Turkey, in the city of Antalya.

During high school I got to know the Hizmet movement. I really liked the ideas of Fethullah Gülen, who is currently living in exile in the USA. The commitment to education and human rights and the clear separation of state and religion motivated me to join. After graduation I studied Turkish literature in Azerbaijan. Later I started working as a Turkish teacher in a school that belongs to the Hizmet movement in Azerbaijan. I worked there for five years.

Then I moved to Kyrgyzstan and worked in this country for three years – also as a Turkish teacher. During that time the living conditions in Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan were very difficult. As a result, many students were dependent on the scholarship from the Hizmet movement to study. That is why we, my colleagues and me, organized aid and fundraising actions to provide these students with a good education. I was always happy when we made people very happy by doing so. Afterwards I returned to Turkey and worked as a teacher in Izmir for ten years.

After the attempted coup on July 15, 2016, our school and the tutoring institute were closed by decree of the government. This is why my wife, who is also a teacher, and me lost our jobs.  We tried to find new jobs to take care of ourselves and our children. But since we worked in a Gülen school, other employers did not hire us.

I started having sleepless nights. I was always thinking about what to do, because my savings were decreasing, and the police might invade my house one morning. Some friends of mine had already been arrested. About two months after the attempted coup, the police rang my doorbell at 6:00 am. They came because I had worked in a school of the Hizmet movement. For two hours they searched my house.  My youngest handicapped son woke up having epileptic seizures. We should have taken care of him immediately, calming him down, because his situation was becoming life-threatening. The feeling that your own child might die before your eyes – this helplessness cannot be described. Because we were not allowed to care for him, only the policemen could have helped him. But they did nothing at all. Once I tried to touch him. A policeman told me to go back to my seat immediately.

Auf die Behinderung meines Sohnes haben die Polizisten keinerlei Rücksicht genommen.

After the raid, I was brought to the police station. I was held in custody for eight days although I had kidney problems. I slept on the floor and was allowed to go to the toilet only once a day. My pain turned into a nightmare. There was a dark torture chamber behind the prison building. There we were interrogated every day by two policemen who also tortured us. After the interrogation we were transferred to the prison in Antalya. The prison conditions were unbearable. Although Antalya is very hot in summer and has very high humidity, the administration of the prison turned on the heating and gave us very little water. In our room, which can normally accommodate 10 people, I was with up to 53 people. We could hardly breathe. A friend of mine had cancer. He should have been taken to the hospital, but he did not get the permission for it. After two months he died with excruciating pain. He had passed away. We were helpless. There was nothing we could do except from praying for him.

I stayed in prison for one year. In the fourth trial the judge sentenced me to seven years and five months imprisonment because of my professional relationship with the Hizmet movement. He claimed that by doing so I was involved in the attempted coup. Until a higher court would enunciate a verdict for me, I was released. But I had to appear in the guardhouse once a week and sign a form.

In the meanwhile, my wife didn’t want to live with me anymore, so we divorced. A few months later a friend of mine, who received seven years and five months imprisonment like me, was sentenced by the high court and arrested again. That is why I immediately thought of fleeing from Turkey. I came to Germany via the illegal route and applied for asylum in Dresden.

For eight months I received no reply. In 2019 a lawyer who works for Germany was arrested in Turkey. He had a list with him. The list contained the names of about 4000 people who had already applied for asylum in Germany. My name was also on the list. Therefore, I was immediately granted a residence permit. But now I am worried, because this situation is very dangerous for my family.  They might be disturbed and harmed by the regime. Every week the policemen visit my brothers and sisters, come to their houses and ask for me. I miss my children. Although my ex-wife looks after them, they also need my support and my love. I regained my freedom in Germany but lost my happiness. 

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