Bahtiyar Fırat (33) is a bus driver from Hakkari (Colemêrg) in Turkey who has been missing since 14 October, soon after he was released from police custody in İstanbul Airport.
Fırat was first interrogated by police after going through passport control and then released. His family has not heard from him since that day. The last person he spoke to was his wife, Esra Fırat. She said: “My husband was going to go to Iran a week ago to have dental treatment and visit his relatives. That was why he was at İstanbul Airport. He called me and said: ‘After I passed passport control, people who said they were from the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) detained me and interrogated me. I missed my flight. I am now going to a hotel’”.
However, according to his wife, Bahtiyar Fırat was not able to travel to the hotel. Soon after leaving the airport, he called his wife again from the taxi he was travelling in. He told her that he was being followed. Since then, Esra Fırat has not heard from him.
Istanbul’s prosecutors initially told Esra Fırat that MİT had detained him and asked her “to be patient. He is going to be released after interrogation”, the prosecutors informed her. Later, when she enquired again about her husband, the prosecutors said that they did not know about his whereabouts and their investigation was still ongoing.
Esra Fırat, who travelled to Istanbul to find out about the fate of her husband, said:
“Even if my husband committed a crime, they should tell me where he is now and how he is doing. The Prosecutor’s Office has not released a statement for the past week. We do not know where my husband is right now or how he is doing. We cannot reach Bahiyar. Are the incidents of White Toros that occurred in the eastern and southeastern provinces in the 1990s back?”, she asked.
Fırat’s lawyer stated that they had made a complaint about the situation and requested security camera footage records and HTS (Historical Traffic Search) records at the airport. “The prosecutor will initiate an investigation after obtaining these records”, Fırat’s lawyer noted.
Esra Firat’s reference to ‘white Toros’ refers to Renault station wagon ‘Toros’ vehicles that came to represent the symbol of enforced disappearances from the 1970’s through to the 2000’s in Turkey. During the 1990’s in particular, they were used by shadowy Gendarmerie Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Organization (JİTEM) members who have reportedly been involved in numerous ‘unsolved murders’.
The case of Bahtiyar Fırat has raised questions about enforced disappearances of the kind that took place during the 1990’s when hundreds of Kurdish people became victims of enforced disappearances and were abducted by either state agents or people acting with state consent.