Evidence shows that the government of Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has aided and abetted radical jihadist groups including al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, arming, funding and providing logistical support, said journalist Abdullah Bozkurt in an event held at the Dutch parliament in The Hague.
“Based on hundreds of wiretap records that were authorized by Turkish courts, we know for a fact that the government has facilitated foreign jihadists moving into Syria and allowed them to return for medical treatment as well,” he said at the event, held on April 25, 2019 and attended staff members of the parliament.
“The evidence that has been collected so far is quite compelling,” he underlined, detailing how Turkish intelligence organization MIT transported jihadists from Syria to Turkey and injected them into other battleground theaters in Syria using Turkish territory. All these clandestine operations were illegal under Turkish and international law, Bozkurt, director of the Stockholm-based Nordic Research and Monitoring Network, emphasized.
Erdoğan has been tapping various jihadist groups for use as proxies and to leverage them into bargaining with others in negotiations, he warned, saying that this poses a major challenge for Turkey’s allies and partners. “If you look at major ISIL attacks in Europe and Asia, most of the attackers and suicide bombers had spent some time in Turkey, where they were linked to jihadist networks and smugglers,” he said, noting that this was not “random.”
“The major challenge we face in Turkey now is that Erdoğan’s interests do not overlap with those of Turkey and that he is ready to sacrifice everything to cling to power,” he added.
Speaking at the event, Levent Kenez, the executive director of the Stockholm Center for Freedom, explained that the Erdoğan government has specifically targeted journalists who had investigated Turkey’s links to jihadist groups and exposed the clandestine business of the intelligence agency. He recounted how the Turkish Meydan newspaper, which he ran as editor-in-chief before the government closed it down, broke a story on April 9, 2015 about how a secret operation to provide Turkish passports to Uyghurs was run from a building in Istanbul’s Zeytinburnu district, apparently a covert operation of Turkish intelligence.
He said the revelation irritated the Erdoğan government. The police raided the offices of the newspaper in July 2016, and the newspaper was later unlawfully shut down by the Erdoğan regime. Kenez was detained only to be released pending charges the next day. He fled Turkey before the government issued a fresh warrant for his arrest. The entire archive of the Meydan daily was removed by the government to get rid of any record and evidence of this distasteful business with Uyghur jihadists.
He said investigative journalists Bayram Kaya and Emre Soncan, who aired the government’s dirty laundry, are still locked up in Turkish prisons, with 191 journalists jailed in Turkey, a world record.
Johannes de Jong, managing director of the Sallux think tank, also confirmed that the evidence collected in Syria points to Erdoğan government involvement in supporting jihadist groups. He said the engagement with Turkey is not working and that it is time to acknowledge that Erdoğan’s Turkey is posing a threat to European security.