By Harut Sassounian,
Last week, I reported that Pres. Erdogan’s office sent a letter to the heads of religious minorities in Turkey demanding that they sign it and send it back to the President. In that letter, Erdogan falsely claimed that Turkey was alone on the forefront of the fight against international terrorism.
Contrary to Erdogan’s claims, there have been dozens of reports in the international media proving that Turkey was in fact on the forefront of those assisting ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
Ahmet S. Yayla is someone who has first-hand knowledge of the Turkish government’s support for ISIS as he was the chief of counterterrorism and operations in Turkey from 2010 to 2013, and chief of public order and criminal investigations in Sanliurfa, Turkey, from 2013 to 2014. Sanliurfa was the endpoint of the ISIS “jihadi highway.” Yayla wrote an in-depth article on March 6, 2020, in The Investigative Journal, exposing Erdogan’s complicity in terrorism. The article was titled, “Try Erdogan at the International Criminal Court for Enabling ISIS.”
Yayla wrote that he had to leave his job in 2014 and retire “in order not to be involved with Erdogan’s atrocities, which rise to the level of crimes against humanity.”
According to Yayla, “ISIS would not have swelled to power or killed so many if the Erdogan regime had not decided to support it directly or indirectly from its emergence in 2014. The fact is, when ISIS set up shop in Raqqa [Syria] in 2014, the Turkish Intelligence Agency (MIT) was guarding its front door and putting out an elaborate welcome mat for jihadist volunteers on their way to martyrdom. Turkey was a central hub for the travel of over 50,000 ISIS foreign fighters, and the main source of ISIS logistical materials, including the majority of ISIS IEDs [Improvised Explosive Devices], making Turkey and ISIS practically allies.”
Yayla also quoted an October 2019 U.S. Department of State publication which reported that “Turkey remains a transit point for foreign fighters looking to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which could help the terrorist group to reorganize and regain influence.” The U.S. Government further warned that “foreign fighters transiting through Turkey could help Islamic State to regenerate.” ISIS was able to relocate many of its high-profile and senior members to Turkey, where they ran the terrorist organization’s day-to-day operations.
Yayla reported that “on December 3, 2019, terrorist kingpin Hamid Shakir Saba’ al-Badri — cousin of deceased Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi — was captured south of Kirkuk, Iraq, having returned from his safe haven in Turkey. A Turkish ISIS prisoner in Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) custody told journalist Lindsey Snell about a giant safe house ISIS maintained in Gaziantep, Turkey. The prisoner said, ‘there were so many foreigners there; so many different languages. They (Turkey) knew what we were there for.’”
Since Turkish leaders assisted ISIS, there was widespread support for ISIS among the Turkish public. Reuters reported that according to “Turkey’s Social Trends Survey,” conducted by an Ankara think tank, 9.3% of the respondents stated that ISIS was not a terrorist organization, with 5.4% supporting its actions.
According to PEW research, 8% of the Turkish population had a favorable view of ISIS. As a result, according to a recent Combating Terrorism Center report, Turks contributed the highest number of fighters to ISIS. There were up to 9,476 Turkish ISIS terrorists, whereas there were more than 900 Azerbaijanis in the ranks of ISIS.
Turkey was also the source of continued supply of various materials for ISIS, including boots, uniforms, vests, food and most importantly explosives. Quoting from Conflict Armament Research (CAR), Yayla reported that ISIS had “first, a major acquisition network operating in Turkey and, second, a clear supply route from Turkey, through Syria, to Iraq.” CAR also revealed that “Turkey is the most important chokepoint for components used in the manufacture of IEDs” by the Islamic State. In fact, CAR documented that ISIS fighters “source most of the products used in the manufacture of weapons and ammunition from the Turkish domestic market.”
A Turkish journalist, Tolga Tanis, was fired and slapped with a libel investigation filed by Pres. Erdogan, when Tanis revealed how Turkish companies were exporting explosive materials to ISIS.
Yayla also reported that “on November 18, 2019, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two Turkish brothers, Ahmet and Ismail Bayaltun, as Turkey-based ‘ISIS procurement agents’ in addition to four ISIS-linked companies operating in Syria and Turkey. Bayaltun brothers were known for their role in supplying ISIS, specifically shipping 48 tons of aluminum paste to be used in ISIS IEDs. More importantly, the Bayaltun brothers had a close relationship with AKP chairman Mustafa Bayaltun in Sanliurfa, where their office is located.”
The role of the Turkish National Intelligence (MIT) in supporting terrorism was revealed when the Turkish police stopped three trucks operated by MIT on January 19, 2014, and found military-grade weapons hidden underneath medicine boxes being transported to Syria.
Beyond supporting terrorism, Pres. Erdogan also purchased ISIS oil through a Turkish front company named Powertrans controlled by his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, according to Yayla. “Albayrak paid up to $3 million a day at the height of ISIS oil production. In fact, Erdogan passed a bill to grant the rights to transfer oil by tanker and contracted Powertrans without a public bid as the sole authorized company. In addition to purchasing the ISIS oil, Erdogan tasked his son, Bilal Erdogan, through his Maltese shipping company, the BMZ Group, to sell ISIS oil on the world market.” In addition, Turkish money transfer centers passed hundreds of thousands of dollars a day to ISIS.
Yayla concluded: “In the end, ISIS would not have killed, wounded, enslaved, and raped thousands of innocent people without the vast support it enjoyed through Turkey. Erdogan and his co-conspirators must be tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague for their crimes against humanity…. Turkish President Erdogan and his co-conspirators have blood on their hands. Based on the well- documented, incontestable, and undeniable evidence [that] exists, it is clear that Erdogan has been directly and indirectly supporting ISIS.”