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Le Monde
Le Monde
2 Dec 2023

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His wife hasn't heard from him. No messages, no phone calls. Since the evening of Monday November 27, Areej has been calling Ahmed Katie's office and his cell phone, but the calls go unanswered. He is a 45-year-old Syrian human rights activist, residing legally in Turkey since 2013. The couple lives in Istanbul, where they are raising three young children.

The last conversation Areej had with her husband was on Monday afternoon, at around 5:30 pm. He told her then that he was going to finish his work and come straight home. "I started to worry and called him shortly before 8 pm, but to no avail," she explained. That same morning, Katie had gone to Taksim to collect a pass from the French consulate, which he had obtained from the consular authorities for himself and his family, in order to travel to France, where he had applied for asylum.

According to several people close to him, Katie has been subjected to pressure from Turkish authorities in recent months. In a video recorded on YouTube on October 23, he explained receiving a call on October 19 from someone claiming to be a member of the security services. The caller asked him to go immediately to the Café Mado in Aksaray Square, close to his work. There, Ahmed Katie said he found three individuals – two Turks and an Arabic-Turkish translator – who asked him to buy a SIM card in his name in a store belonging to the phone service provider Turkcell, just across the street, before handing it over to them.

To his surprise, one of the three men had been present several weeks earlier in an Istanbul immigration office where he had an appointment to renew his papers. The man, who did not identify himself, allegedly asked him why he was defending Syrian refugees, and what his intentions were.

Katie became frightened. On October 29, he posted on his Facebook page, "Due to the particular circumstances and pressures I have recently been under, which have become too much for me to bear alone, I am announcing a total halt to any human rights or media activities."

According to one of his work colleagues, who crossed paths with him on Monday November 27 and preferred to remain anonymous, Katie received a phone call at around 2 pm. "He told me he had another appointment with these three members of the security services. They were reportedly to give him an appointment a little later on the pretext of a matter of papers concerning his children. He went there around 7 pm, and then nothing. No one knows if he was arrested or by whom, or to which detention center he may have been taken," said this worried relative. Halim Yilmaz, Katie's lawyer, said he has contacted the Istanbul and Sisli prefectures, to no avail. They say they have "no record of him," he added.

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