A secret intelligence report obtained by Nordic Monitor showed that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has kept a jihadist teacher on the government payroll in Turkey while purging tens of thousands of teachers who are seen as critical of his Islamist government’s policies.
The intelligence report indicated that a teacher named Erkan Akgül, who works at a vocational high school in Turkey’s southeastern province of Malatya, frequented a madrasa that is affiliated with a Turkish al-Qaeda cell called Tahşiyeciler. The jihadist group is led by by radical imam Mehmet Doğan (aka Mullah Muhammed el-Kesri), who openly declared his admiration for Osama bin Laden and called for armed jihad in Turkey.
Ali Erbaş, the head of the intelligence unit at the Malatya Police department, filed the report on April 9, 2010 with details on the movements of public school teacher Akgül. The report noted that the teacher participated in a jihadist study circle at a house that was converted into a madrasa by the al-Qaeda affiliated group. The house had already been under surveillance as part of a planned intelligence operation on orders of police headquarters in Ankara.
Police intelligence report identified a public school teacher as a suspect in a Turkish al-Qaeda affiliated group:Erkan_Akgul_Tahsiyeciler_al-Qaeda
At the time, Akgül was teaching electrical skills and lectured students at the Şehit Kemal Özalper Mesleki ve Teknik Anadolu Lisesi vocational high school. Nordic Monitor’s investigation found that he still works at the same school and continues to teach students.
Tahşiyeciler’s leader, Mullah Muhammed, and his associates were rounded up in a police operation in January 2010. The police discovered three hand grenades, one smoke bomb, seven handguns, 18 hunting rifles, electronic parts for explosives, knives and a large cache of ammunition in the homes of the suspects. The group was also connected to the deployment of jihadist Turkish fighters abroad, especially to Afghanistan.
The investigation revealed how Mullah Muhammed had asked his followers to build bombs and mortars in their homes, urged the decapitation of Americans, claiming that the religion allowed such practices. “I’m telling you to take up your guns and kill them,” he said in recorded sermons, adding, “If the sword is not used, then this is not Islam.” According to Doğan, all Muslims were obligated to respond to then-al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s armed fight.
Although Mullah Muhammed and his associates were indicted and tried, Erdoğan started defending the group in 2014, vouching for the radical imam. The campaign to save the indicted Mullah Muhammed was first launched by the Sabah daily, owned by Erdoğan’s family, on March 13, 2014. An article tried to portray Mullah Muhammed as a victim. The government claimed that Mullah Muhammed was framed by the Gülen movement, a group that is highly critical of Erdoğan on a range of issues from corruption to Turkey’s arming of jihadist groups in Syria and Libya.
The crackdown on critical thinking in Turkey with an unprecedented witch hunt targeting teachers, academics and other professionals in the education sector has dealt a huge blow to free thought in Turkey, according to a report released by the Stockholm Center for Freedom. In total, 96,719 teachers and academics were purged from Turkey’s public and private educational institutions between 2016 and 2018 on charges that they were affiliated with the Gülen movement.