Abducted Turkish educator released after pressure from activists

Association

Abducted Turkish educator freed after authorities ground flight

On 27th July 2018, a Turkish educator, was briefly abducted in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar and taken to the city’s airport. Veysel Akcay who has lived in Mongolia for 24 years, is allegedly associated with the network of US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, which Turkish authorities hold responsible for a failed 2016 coup in Turkey. Turkey has branded the group as terrorists and sought to detain those involved as part of a wide-ranging operation in 2018.

According to news reports, Akcay was near his apartment building in the capital when he was abducted and taken into a minivan. That account was corroborated by two others, including another colleague and a senior Mongolian official, speaking anonymously. A Turkish-chartered Bombardier jet reportedly landed in Ulan Bator's Genghis Khan airport, a few hours later. According to an online flight-tracking service, the jet matched the call sign of a plane operated by the Turkish Air Force.

As information leaked out about the aircraft, his colleagues gathered at Genghis Khan airport holding signs demanding Ackay’s release, and human rights activists in the country spoke out publicly, urging the government to take action against the abduction, which they believed was politically motivated. The activists also warned that any involvement by Mongolian authorities in Ackay's abduction would be in direct violation of constitutional laws.

Later that afternoon, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that the Mongolian government had ordered the flight grounded. Any seizure of Akcay, it added, would constitute an “unacceptable act of violation of Mongolia’s sovereignty and independence and Mongolia will strongly object”. The plane later left the country without Akcay in the evening of the same day. Akcay was released several hours later.

Mongolian authorities said they do not have specific knowledge of the abduction and are conducting an investigation. Veysel Akcay is currently seeking asylum in Mongolia.

Peaceful assembly

Mongolia hold Pride march

On 25th August 2018, at least 150 people marched through Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar for the country’s sixth annual LGBTI pride festival. The Equality Walk was the first event in eight days of LGBTI events named the Equality & Pride Days. Events include a Voices-4-Equality concert, an Arts-4-Rights arts exhibition, and the Beyond the Blue Sky Queer Film Festival.

According to Nyamdorj Anaraa, co-founder of the LGBT Centre (Mongolia) “this year was so far the biggest Equality Walk both in terms of the crowd as well as the coverage by media and social media engagement. Partly this was due to the fact that a lot of younger LGBTI people and allies joining".

He further said:

“The Equality & Pride Days are not yet a celebration of equality…they are a reminder that we are still treated as secondary citizens because of the negative mindsets and attitudes.”

The LGBT Centre advocates for the amendment of existing laws or for the enactment of new anti-discriminatory legislation. It has also lately engaged in litigation to amend laws through a judicial review. The centre’s health programme has reproductive and sexual health services available for lesbians and bisexual women. The Centre also works to prevent interference with intersexual children and to provide transition-related services for transgender people.

Mongolia decriminalised homosexuality in the late 1980s. In 2017, it changed to the country’s Criminal Code to outlaw discrimination and hate crimes on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.