Gülenists escape to Greece by concealing themselves as Syrian refugees

Gülenists escape to Greece by concealing themselves as Syrian refugees

Gülden Aydın – EDİRNE
Gülenists escape to Greece by concealing themselves as Syrian refugees

Photo: Sebati Karakurt

Suspected members of the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), widely believed to have orchestrated the July 15, 2016 failed coup, are attempting to cross into Greece by concealing themselves as Syrian refugees. 

Coup suspects seeking to escape from Turkey gather in the Subaşı, Kadıdondurma, Karayusuflu and Serem villages in the northwestern province of Edirne in order to cross over to the Sofulu and Dimetoka villages in Greece on the other side of the Maritsa River, which is a common route used by Syrian refugees who want to reach Europe. 

The residents of Subaşı, which is across from Sofulu, described the methods used by human smugglers on condition that their name be concealed. 

According to the residents, those seeking to enter Greece wait in the forests between the villages until night falls. They then pass through irrigation canals, fields and alleys in order to reach the Maritsa River some 1,000 or 1,500 meters away. 

Two human smugglers separate the fugitives into groups of five to 15 people depending on the size of the boat, while one of the smugglers later attaches the boat to a tree near the river. One of the smugglers boards the boat and takes people to Greece. After the fugitives arrive in Greece, the smuggler in Edirne pulls the boat back with a rope. 

According to information received from the villagers, suspected FETÖ members have been finding a way to cross into Greece despite all the security measures taken in the region. 

The coup suspects are greeted by other FETÖ members and stay in safe houses after reaching Greece. The dispersion of the fugitives into Europe is coordinated from these houses, which are in the Komotini (Gümülcine) region of Greece. 

Speaking to daily Hürriyet, a guide who has knowledge about the issue said no one without a permit can enter the fields between Subaşı and Kadıdondurma. 

“The farmers and shepherds cannot enter this field without permission,” said the guide, who asked his identity to be kept anonymous, adding that the smugglers only used inflatable boats. 

On the way, police check press cards while searching the car meticulously. 

“We’ve caught a lot of FETÖ members with press cards in these checks. Next time, show your IDs so no problem occurs,” one police officer told daily Hürriyet.

Gülenists escape to Greece by concealing themselves as Syrian refugees

A former municipality worker from Subaşı, meanwhile, said suspected FETÖ members did not like to use the sea route due to the associated dangers, preferring instead to use the shorter route over the Maritsa River. 

The width of the river is just 50 to 100 meters, the worker said. “They escape through here by concealing themselves as Syrian refugees. It’s impossible to distinguish them from the Syrian refugees, because they dress similar to the refugees. Men grow their beards and women dress like Arabs. They definitely refrain from speaking Turkish and remain silent,” he told daily Hürriyet. 

Police and the gendarmerie have been standing vigilant against the group for the past six weeks, the worker said, adding that human smugglers were now being charged with “helping a terrorist organization.”

“Previously, the smugglers were tried for smuggling refugees and human trafficking. Now ‘aiding a terrorist organization’ has been added to those, and the punishment is heavier,” he said. 

Meanwhile, a shepherd, Tuncay Demir, said the number of crossing will increase when spring arrives.

According to the Edirne Governor’s Office, 38 FETÖ members and eight people who aided them have been caught near the Maritza River since July 16, 2016.