Following an attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian rule in July of 2016, a group of 8 Turkish soldiers made headlines across the globe as they commandeered a military helicopter to the safety of a Greek airport.
A diplomatic war of words between Greece and Turkey erupted. Turkey claimed the individuals were instrumental in the coup (a claim they denied in court testimony) and referred to them as terrorists, while Greece promised to uphold international law and treat the eight as legitimate asylum seekers.
While these eight individuals made headlines, there are thousands of other Turks fleeing the unraveling of Turkey who are not in the newspapers.
They are average citizens fearful of their lives in Erdogan’s Turkey who are crossing over to Greece for safety.
After spending a decade in a maximum security prison in Turkey, Turgut Kaya, a prominent journalist who often wrote opposing views of the Erdogan regime, fled to Greece.
“It’s not just me,” the 45-year-old Mr. Kaya, recently given asylum after a 55-day hunger strike, said in a story in the Washington Times.
Erdogan “is attacking students, academics, teachers and many other people that have no relations with any of the organizations he considers his enemies,” Kaya told Nikolia Apostolou, the Times’ reporter.
“They don’t have any proof to go after me or these people — even judges are now in prison or exile,” he said.
Numerous watchdog groups both inside and outside Turkey are alarmed at the iron grip Erdogan is placing on his citizenry with more than 100,000 military, teachers, lawyers, doctors, judges and others imprisoned.
The numbers of Turkish citizens applying for asylum in Greece skyrocketed from just over three dozen in 2015 to 1,827 in 2017 and 1,152 in the first six months of this year.
Some who have arguments of persecution or threats to their lives apply for political asylum, while others come on student visas or work permits.
Those with the financial means– about 1,000 so far according to official statistics, have bought homes valued at $283,000, the minimum necessary for buyers to get a European Union visa that was designed to promote investment and entrepreneurism. This option enables these well-off Turks to stay in Greece and roam freely throughout the European Union.
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