The world has reacted with outrage at the murder of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. Turkey, which has been at odds with Saudi Arabia because of its support for Qatar, has been particularly vocal about the attack that saw the dissident journalist murdered in the consulate.
But as the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cries foul over the attack, it too is not averse to attacking its own citizens in consulates.
In May 2017, Turkish consular officials in the German city of Essen threatened to slit the throat of a Bangladesh school teacher as they beat him when he attempted to extend the validity of his nine-year old daughter’s passport.
Yavuz Koca, a Turkish national who was the General Director of International Hope School in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, told journalist Cevheri Güven from Medyabold that he had managed to get an appointment to extend his daughter’s passport after he had been unsuccessful at Turkey’s embassy in the Bangladeshi capital.
The embassy in Dakha had refused to provide any services to Koca because his name appeared on a Turkish government list of Gülen movement members and therefore refused to extend the validity of his daughter’s passport.
After being denied access to services in Bangladesh, Koca tried his chance in a different country and submitted an application to the Essen Consulate in Germany.
He received a positive response and flew to Germany with his wife and two daughters to extend his daughter’s passport.
Security procedure relaxed ahead of attack
On May 22, 2017, the consulate allowed Koca and his family to enter the consulate premises without even asking for their cell phones. Koca and his wife, who is also a teacher, immediately found it strange that they and their two daughters, aged three and nine, were allowed to skip security checks upon entering the building.
“When we entered the consulate, we were asked to go upstairs. Shortly afterwards, the consulate staff took me back down. I faced different treatment from other people, who were also waiting to be seen to in the consulate. I realised that something was wrong,” explained Koca.
“Soon after the First Secretary came and spoke harshly to me. He and the three officers with him were saying that we are terrorists. They said that they will confiscate our passports. Luckily, we didn’t carry them at the moment but only our older daughter’s passport.
“When the tension escalated, my children started crying. I asked them to allow my wife and kids to leave then I will do whatever they want. My family and consulate staff walked towards the exit gate. After seeing that my wife and children had left the garden gate, I threw my daughter’s passport over the fence,” Koca said.
This is German land
He said that when his wife picked up the passport, a Turkish consular security official rushed out of the consulate and tried to forcibly grab the passport from her. He said his wife shouted and the security official: “This is German land!”
He backed off, and returned to the consular premises. But from that moment onwards the official and his fellow Turkish consular security officials began to attack Koca, which he believed was on the orders of the First Secretary.
Security at Turkey’s diplomatic missions abroad is provided by the police and security personnel are active police officers.
“Among the police officers, the young and the old one, started to attack me. My back was hit to iron fences. One of the cops was squeezing my throat. He tried to bring me down to the ground, but I resisted. He tore my t-shirt and my pants were torn from the knee,” Koca explained.
“I got hit by my ribs. I never touched the cops, I was just trying to protect myself, and get out of their hands and stand up. Then I started screaming. I shouted out to my wife, who was outside, ‘call the media or they will kill me here,’” Koca said.
“They (his wife and daughters) saw my situation through fences. They screamed for help but the German police were watching from afar, not interfering in the scene, which was on Turkish soil,” he said.
“The incident in the consulate garden received attention from Germans who saw the brawl from outside. When the incident become known to outsiders, the police stopped attacking me, but they threatened to cut off my throat,” Koca said.
“The police officers accused me of joining the 15 July Coup. I explained that I have been in Bangladesh for the last two years and told them that they should question who really organized the coup. At this moment, the young police said that ‘once we know who did, we’ll behead them,’” Koca continued.
Koca explained that what happened to him in the consulate had upset his wife and children immensely and that they had cried a lot.
“Especially my nine-year old daughter. She was highly traumatized from the attack on me. The incident happened at the closing time of the consulate. The Turkish consulate staff also saw what happened to me but they couldn’t say anything to the security staff,” Koca said.
Diplomatic immunity protected the attackers
“When the people outside heard my screams, the First Secretary immediately entered the building and the police kept me in the garden for a while. I came to know that First Secretary talked to Deputy Consul, as the Consul was not in the building. When the incident became public, they changed their tune. They said they could get my application or I could go. I immediately left the building. I saw the German police outside and asked them why they didn’t stop the Turkish police, who were about to kill me? They said they can’t do anything as the incident happened inside the consulate. They wanted to call an ambulance when they realized that I had got injured. My children were scared a lot and they were crying. First, I left my family to stay at my friend’s house and went to the hospital to get an assault report. Then I visited the police station and filed a complaint against the consulate staff,” Koca said.
“Attack was planned”
According to Koca, who spoke about the incident after many months it had happened, the assault he survived was similar to that on Khashoggi, who was murdered in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul Consulate. He believes that the attack on him in the Essen consulate had been planned.
Koca said the fact that the gate was immediately opened without a security check, he and his family were taken to the inside, and that security staff labeled them terrorists as they knew they are members of the Gülen movement as well as accusing them of the coup attempt, showed that the attack had been preplanned.
Koca said that the First Secretary had claimed that 40 passports had been confiscated using the same tactics.
Vienna Convention stops investigation
He said that his petition the physical violence and death threat was closed due to the Vienna Convention, which regulates diplomatic missions. He said that initially a case was opened against the Turkish Consulate.
“The Consulate denied the incident but the German police saw it from outside. German authorities examined the case but they were not allowed to do anything, as the Vienna Convention protects the Consulate, and the case was closed,” Koca said.
According to an assault report, Koca received bruises and cuts to his back, ribs, arms, neck and legs.
Koca said that more than the physical injuries, the incident also had his family with psychological scars.
“My nine-year old daughter is still trying to overcome the trauma she experienced in the Consulate.
Psychology report shows all the details. My daughter says she will work hard to become prime minister to punish this consulate police who attacked me,” Koca said.
Consulate stays tight-lipped
Journalist Güven said he had asked the consulate about the incident, but to date has received no response to his queries.
Koca and his family now live in Germany as political refugees.
As Koca and his wife have advanced English, German authorities have told them that they can work as teachers when they pass a German language course.
Koca is waiting eagerly to begin teaching again, but this time in Germany.
Since the July 15 coup attempt, over 150 thousand people were fired, sacked and dismissed from their jobs, and around 100 thousand people were arrested in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s post-coup crackdown on Gülen movement members. The AK Party government has further revoked over 100 thousand passports inside Turkey, and Turkish diplomatic representatives refuse access to consulate services to teachers affiliated with the Gülen movement, based on the list prepared by Turkish informants.