Er­do­gan Has Com­mand Re­spon­si­bil­ity for Aid­ing Ter­ror­ism

The Washington Times Daily - - TURKEY - By Dr. Ah­met S. Yayla Ah­met S. Yayla, Ph.D., is an ad­junct pro­fes­sor of Crim­i­nol­ogy, Law, and So­ci­ety at Ge­orge Ma­son Univer­sity. He served as the chief of Coun­tert­er­ror­ism and Op­er­a­tions De­part­ment of the Turk­ish Na­tional Po­lice in San­li­urfa be­tween 2010

The in­famy of the crimes against hu­man­ity car­ried out by Is­lamic State is le­gendary, but the still un­told story is how Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan de­lib­er­ately turned a blind eye to the Is­lamic State’s use of his na­tion as a stag­ing ground for at­tacks, and how he and his fam­ily prof­ited from il­licit oil trad­ing with the ter­ror­ists in Syria and Iraq. The pres­i­dent knows well that the ev­i­dence of his cul­pa­bil­ity is mount­ing, which likely ex­plains his fre­netic ef­fort to win a ref­er­en­dum on April 16 that will grant him im­mu­nity from pros­e­cu­tion.

If Mr. Er­do­gan had not al­lowed the Is­lamic State op­er­a­tives inside Turkey to trans­port weapons and ex­plo­sives to Syria and Iraq openly, there would be no Is­lamic State as we know it today, and thou­sands of peo­ple likely would have evaded their bru­tal­ity.

The pres­i­dent’s mis­steps be­gan in 2011, when he ap­par­ently sur­mised that the Syr­ian up­ris­ing was an op­por­tu­nity for his re­gional and po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests. Ini­tially, he aimed for a prompt regime change in Syria with this sup­port. Even­tu­ally, as the Is­lamic State started to tar­get the Kurds in the re­gion, he con­sid­ered the Is­lamic State as a tool that would help him con­quer the Kur­dis­tan Worker’s Party and deal with PKK’s Kur­dish al­lies in North­ern Syria. The Turk­ish State, un­der the di­rec­tion of Mr. Er­do­gan, com­mit­ted the fol­low­ing crimes against hu­man­ity:

--Mr. Er­do­gan al­lowed more than 25,000 Is­lamic State for­eign fight­ers to cross from Turkey to Syria and Iraq to join the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port of the Com­bat­ting Ter­ror­ism Cen­ter at the U.S. Mil­i­tary Acad­emy. The Turk­ish in­tel­li­gence and law en­force­ment forces were strictly or­dered not to in­ter­vene with the move­ment of for­eign fight­ers un­til 2016. In fact, in some cases, for­eign fight­ers were ac­com­pa­nied by the Turk­ish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers.

--Var­i­ous Salafist Ji­hadist ter­ror­ist groups, in­clud­ing the al Qaeda af­fil­i­ates and the Is­lamic State, were ei­ther pro­vided arms and ex­plo­sives by some el­e­ments of the Turk­ish State or were openly al­lowed to carry out their ar­ma­ment and lo­gis­ti­cal sup­port op­er­a­tions inside and through Turkey. For ex­am­ple, on Jan. 19, 2014, three trucks op­er­ated by the Turk­ish Na­tional In­tel­li­gence (MIT) loaded with hid­den mil­i­tary grade weapons un­derneath medicine boxes were stopped on Adana high­way, re­veal­ing the on­go­ing trans­fer of arms and ex­plo­sives to ter­ror­ists in Syria.

--Turkey had been the main sup­plier of arms and ex­plo­sive ma­te­ri­als for the Is­lamic State, ac­cord­ing to the De­cem­ber 2016 re­port of Con­flict Ar­ma­ment Re­search (CAR), a re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion funded by the Euro­pean Union to iden­tify and track the con­ven­tional weapons sup­ply chain to the Is­lamic State. “CAR’s find­ings con­tin­u­ously re­in­force ev­i­dence that the Is­lamic State op­er­ates a ma­jor ac­qui­si­tion net­work in Turkey and has a di­rect line of sup­ply from Turkey, through Syria, to the Mo­sul area,” CAR re­ported.

--As the for­mer chief of coun­tert­er­ror­ism po­lice in Turkey in 2013, I per­son­ally wit­nessed that hos­pi­tals across south­east­ern Turkey opened their doors to any wounded Is­lamic State fighter and treated him free of charge, of­ten un­der the pro­tec­tion of Turk­ish po­lice. While I was the chief, I was or­dered to pro­vide se­cu­rity to the wounded fight­ers — and there were so many, I was not able to find enough of­fi­cers to assign. I was per­son­ally as­sign­ing the se­cu­rity details by or­ders of the gov­er­nor. In fact, fol­low­ing an air strike, Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi’s right-hand man and six other fight­ers were treated in Au­gust 2014 in a pri­vate hos­pi­tal in San­li­urfa. The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment paid the hos­pi­tal bills, ac­cord­ing to hos­pi­tal doc­tors who spoke to me.

The world learned through the hacked emails of Berat Al­bayrak, Turkey’s Min­is­ter of En­ergy and Nat­u­ral Re­sources and the son-in-law of Mr. Er­do­gan, that he con­tin­u­ously pur­chased Is­lamic State oil through Pow­er­trans, his front com­pany for il­licit oil transfers. His pur­chases pro­vided the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion a steady in­come of $3 mil­lion a day at the height of Is­lamic State’s oil pro­duc­tion — thereby of­fer­ing the ter­ror net­work hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to fund its op­er­a­tions.

Mr. Er­do­gan re­leased into the cus­tody of Is­lamic State on two sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions more than 200 hard-core ter­ror­ists in or­der to gain con­ces­sions from ISIS. In all, 201 Is­lamic State fight­ers who were re­sid­ing in Turkey were ar­rested by Turk­ish po­lice for the chief pur­pose of bar­ter­ing them for Turk­ish of­fi­cials held hostage by ISIS in Iraq, or to gain the re­lease of Turk­ish sol­diers stranded and en­cir­cled by ISIS fight­ers in Syria.

In or­der to get the re­lease of ap­prox­i­mately 49 Turk­ish con­sular of­fi­cials kid­napped by ISIS af­ter the seizure of the Turk­ish Con­sulate in June 11, 2014, the Turk­ish po­lice rounded up more than 100 ISIS mem­bers shel­ter­ing on Turk­ish soil and of­fered them to ISIS as a pris­oner ex­change on Sept. 20, 2014. (See trans­la­tion of Min­istry of In­te­rior doc­u­ment be­low that or­ders gov­er­nors to hold for­eign fight­ers in their de­ten­tion cen­ters.)

The sec­ond ex­change hap­pened dur­ing the Su­ley­man Shah tomb op­er­a­tion on Feb. 22, 2015, in the town of Sar­rin in Aleppo Prov­ince. In that op­er­a­tion, Turkey handed 98 ISIS mem­bers to the ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion, so that the tomb could be moved. The dis­turb­ing part of th­ese ex­changes is the fact that the State of Turkey handed over sev­eral well-known and ex­pe­ri­enced for­eign fight­ers to the Is­lamic State, in­clud­ing some who had “red no­tices,” that is, ar­rest war­rants from Interpol. For ex­am­ple, Ahmed Di­ini, a Dutch cit­i­zen of So­mali ori­gin who was wanted by Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties on ter­ror­ism charges, was handed to the Is­lamic State on Sept. 20, 2014, even though the U.S. gov­ern­ment had re­quested that Turkey ex­tra­dite him back to the U.S. for trial. Sim­i­larly, Is­lamic State se­nior leader Mo­hamed Mah­moud, known as Abu Usama al-Gharib, an Aus­trian cit­i­zen, was among the ter­ror­ists who were handed over to the Is­lamic State. Mah­moud went on to com­mand large units of ISIS ter­ror­ists in Syria and re­port­edly mur­dered hun­dreds of peo­ple.

The Is­lamic State freely op­er­ated in Turkey for years with­out fac­ing any coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions. Af­ter sen­sa­tional cor­rup­tion scan­dals sur­faced in 2013 that ap­peared to im­pli­cate Er­do­gan’s son, Bi­lal, the pres­i­dent called a halt to all on­go­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions against the Is­lamic State, the al Qaeda and its af­fil­i­ates. In 2104 and 2015, Turk­ish po­lice ne­glected to carry out any planned coun­tert­er­ror­ism op­er­a­tions in Turkey tar­get­ing those ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions. It ap­peared that the po­lice re­al­ized that Is­lamic State and other ji­hadist groups were un­touch­able. The whole na­tion was put on no­tice on Jan. 15, 2014, when po­lice chiefs and pros­e­cu­tors from Van, a city in the east of Turkey, at­tempted to in­ter­dict arms smug­gling from Turkey to Syria — but were in­stead promptly fired and ar­rested them­selves.

Whereas 10 years ago, all Turk­ish par­ties took a hard line against rad­i­cal, po­lit­i­cal Is­lamism, Mr. Er­do­gan’s Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party (AKP) in re­cent years be­gan to praise the mu­jahidin as free­dom fight­ers, which jus­ti­fied their pres­ence on Turk­ish soil. A 2015 Pew Re­search Cen­ter sur­vey con­firmed this ten­dency by re­port­ing that ap­prox­i­mately 7 mil­lion of Turks had a fa­vor­able ap­proach to­wards the Is­lamic State.

Jour­nal­ists and schol­ars point to the pres­i­dent’s Is­lamist rhetoric and the AKP’s lap­dog me­dia plat­forms for rad­i­cal­iz­ing many Turks, a ten­dency il­lus­trated by the hor­ren­dous as­sas­si­na­tion of the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to Ankara on cam­era by a po­lice of­fi­cer on Dec. 19, 2016.

Is­lamic State in today’s Turkey en­joys mind­bog­gling priv­i­leges: It has opened four schools in the mid­dle of Ankara, main­tained train­ing cen­ters and camps in Is­tan­bul, and op­er­ated hun­dreds of safe havens and ter­ror­ist cells across the coun­try.

Mr. Er­do­gan and his gov­ern­ment sys­tem­at­i­cally, will­ingly, and in most cases openly sup­ported Salafist ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions, as doc­u­mented by Turk­ish in­de­pen­dent me­dia (be­fore the gov­ern­ment closed them) and Euro­pean news or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The grim re­sult of this sup­port is that Is­lamic State be­came a mon­strous killing ma­chine in a very short time, killing thou­sands of men, women and in­clud­ing chil­dren. Even worse, atroc­i­ties un­seen since World War II were com­mit­ted: Men and women were be­headed or killed, or burned, tor­tured, raped and forced to move be­cause of the Is­lamic State in Syria and Iraq. Mr. Er­do­gan has the blood of in­no­cent peo­ple on his hands — in fact, more so than many ISIS foot sol­diers, be­cause atroc­i­ties were en­abled on his watch while he paid no at­ten­tion.

By any le­gal stan­dard, Mr. Er­do­gan has earned the la­bel of “ter­ror­ist” him­self. He has com­mit­ted crimes against hu­man­ity, which is de­fined as “a de­lib­er­ate act, typ­i­cally as part of a sys­tem­atic cam­paign, that causes hu­man suf­fer­ing or death on a large scale.” The Rome Statute pro­vides for the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court in The Hague (Nether­lands) to have ju­ris­dic­tion over crimes against hu­man­ity. Mr. Er­do­gan should be tried at the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court for his crimes. It fol­lows there should be an im­me­di­ate flight ban for Mr. Er­do­gan and his co-con­spir­a­tors, lim­it­ing their in­ter­na­tional move­ments. Sanc­tions against his gov­ern­ment should be put in place, and Mr. Er­do­gan’s as­sets should be frozen promptly.

ISIS train­ing camp in Syria. Sim­i­lar train­ing schools were dis­cov­ered by Turk­ish au­thor­i­ties in Is­tan­bul af­ter the 2016 New Year’s Eve ter­ror at­tack. Im­age pro­vided by Dr. Ah­met Yayla.

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