Asylum Officer Training Materials on Turkey

by David L. Cleveland

US-CIS recently released 51 pages of asylum officer training about Turkey, as the result of a FOIA lawsuit.

The pages are published on the Asylum Officer Materials page of the Louise Trauma Center website:, as “Turkey August 2020.”

Some excerpts:

The RAIO Research Unit made a “Turkey COI Presentation” on 8/26/2020.

Turkey is 99.8% Muslim. Sunni Muslims are 80%. Turkey became a country in 1923. Alives are a branch of Shi’a Islam. Page 7 of 51.

There are Jehovah Witnesses, and Jews. Romani people suffer discrimination. LGBT+ members suffer legal restrictions and hostility.

A large photo of Fethullah Gulen is at page 16. He has inspired democracy and “communal harmony.”

A photo of Recep Erdogan is at page 21. He came to power in 2002. He was elected president, in August 2014, with 52 percent of a vote held for the first time by universal suffrage.

ERGENEKON: a network of secularist ultra-nationalists, was accused of assassinations and bomb attacks. The court delivered 17 life sentences to formerly prominent members of the military and government. Page 27.

Failed Coup of 16 July 2016

The government blamed Gulen. “Soldiers surrender weapons in Istanbul...after being surrounded by armed police units loyal to the government.”Page 29.

Anti-Terrorism Law enacted July 24, 2018

Local governors can ban public gatherings, and control entry and exit of areas. Page 31.

A large photo of Fethullah Gulen is at page 16. His followers are deemed to be members of the Hizmet Movement. Its members “are being arrested and imprisoned.” Page 33. Family members are targeted and coerced. People are harassed for associating with “Gulenist” schools, hospitals, and banks.

Citizens do not, generally, need an exit permit; but at times the passports of Gulenists have been canceled. Page 36.

Mandatory military service for men was reduced on June 25, 2019.

A map showing curfews between August 2015 to January 2019 is at page 39.

In 2018, Turkey and Turkish-backed armed groups captured the region of Afrin, in Syria. Hundreds were killed. In March 2017, Turkey began military operations in the Sinjar region of Iraq. Page 44.

Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is a Tier I terrorist group.

Composed primarily of Turkish Kurds, it “launched a campaign of violence in 1984.” Page 46. In 2018, Turkey fought it in Iraq.

A photo of Selahattin Demirtas is at page 50. Arrested in 2016, and accused of doing crimes in support of the PKK, he came in third in the June 2018 presidential election while behind bars. Page 50. During 2016-2018, “Turkey has imprisoned more journalists than any other country.” Page 51.


The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of asylum of a man who claimed he was accused of being a member of the Izmet or Gulen political opposition movement. Goksen v. Attorney General United States, 851 Fed.Appx. 295, 297 (C.A.3, 2021)

May 29, 2023: Recep Erdogan was re-elected president, garnering 52% of the vote.

“For the millions who voted against him, Erdogan is seen as an authoritarian. He has stacked the judiciary, monopolizes the media and jails perceived opponents — including journalists and critics on social media. He's accused of allowing corruption to flourish, leading to shoddy, unregulated construction that collapsed in the quakes. He's replaced opposition mayors even though they won local elections.”

About The Author

David L. Cleveland was the Chair of the AILA Asylum Committee [2004-05] and has secured asylum or withholding for persons from 48 countries. Based in Washington DC, he is available at <>

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.