Turkey’s continuing crackdown in the wake of the failed July 15 coup has taken a new turn. A number of Nigerian students (fewer than 50, the government says) have been arrested and deported over the past week. They reportedly attended private schools, including Fatih University, which the government has closed since the coup attempt. It alleges the schools have links to the Gulen movement, led by US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, which it claims was behind the failed coup.
Rukkaya Usman, one of the deported students, told local media her passport was seized when she arrived in Turkey for a new academic session and she was sent back to Nigeria as part of a “new law”. Sola Enikanolaiye, an official at Nigeria’s ministry of foreign affairs, says the government has met with Hakan Cakil, the Turkish ambassador to Nigeria, to demand it furnish “a reasonable explanation” and release the detained students.
With their schools closed, Turkey says the students must Nigeria to get new visas before they seek admission to other universities. But Enikanolaiye says the Nigerian government “rejected” that condition. “We insisted that they must be issued the new visa in Turkey,” he said.
The arrests are the latest of several Nigerian links to the failed Turkish coup. Days after it happened, United Bank for Africa (UBA), one of Nigeria’s leading banks, was forced to deny being the conduit for $2 billion which allegedly funded the coup, after being named by a Turkish paper. Soon after, the Turkish government requested the closure of 17 schools in Nigeria, claiming that they had links to the Gulen movement and funds were being raised through them for “for illegal activities.” Nigeria’s government rejected that request.
But Nigerian students in Turkey now fear the arrests are a retaliation for Turkey’s refusal, and say they feel targeted. “Students from Niger and Somalia were not harassed, arrested nor deported because their home governments shut down schools linked to the Hizmet movement at the request of the Turkish government,” an unnamed student told Nigerian newspaper, The Cable. (Hizmet is another name for the Gulen movement.) ”We are scared of leaving our rooms for fear of being arrested and charged with terrorism, or deported. There is a man-hunt for Nigerian students in Turkey.”