Pak-Turk Schools employees in UN protection after visa expiry

Islamabad, Feb 11 (IANS) As many as 108 Turkish employees of the Pakistan Turkey Schools (Pak-Turk), along with their families, have been in the United Nations’ protection after Islamabad denied them an extension in their visas to work in the country, media reported on Saturday.

Documents available with Dawn News reveal that the individuals had urged UN refugee agency UNHCR that they be resettled in a country other than Turkey after Pakistan ordered their deportation.

The applicants had told UNHCR they feared arrest, coercion and torture by the Erdogan government in Turkey in case the Pakistani government forcibly deported them to Istanbul.

The Pak-Turk schools used to be administered by a foundation linked to Fethullah Gulen, once an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, after an abortive military coup in July 2016, the Turkish leadership blamed Gulen for sponsoring the overthrow attempt, resulting in a global crackdown on the religious and educational network led by him.

The Turkish government, in the wake of the attempted coup, jailed over 120,000 individuals on charges of facilitating rebels.

The Turkish Foreign Minister had in August asked Pakistan to close the institutions. In the second week of August, the management of the chain removed the Turkish principals of their 28 schools and colleges and also dissolved the board of directors which had representation from Turkish nationals.