A Turkish prosecutor claimed in an indictment that all jihadist groups were commandeered by foreign intelligence services, toeing the line with the narrative often put forward by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other government officials, who accused Western powers as well as Russia of engineering such groups to attack Islam.
“All jihadist religious movements have been used as subcontractors of the intelligence services of foreign countries to smear and defame the religion of Islam,” wrote Sinan Tür, then-deputy chief public prosecutor in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya. In the indictment filed with the Antalya 2nd High Criminal Court on November 10, 2016, the prosecutor accused government critics of trying to create the perception that the Erdoğan government had been supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other violent jihadist groups.
Tür reinforced the official government line about illegal shipments to jihadist groups in Syria that were intercepted in 2014 and falsely claimed that the trucks were carrying humanitarian assistance when in fact video and photos clearly showed ammunition in the containers searched by local law enforcement officers. The indictment, which was filed under case No.2016/1370, was accepted by the court, and 97 people who were alleged members of the Gulen movement, a government critic, were accused of defaming the Erdoğan government, among other fabricated charges.
Parts of the indictment which show the prosecutor leveled false claims:antalya_jihadist_narrative
The prosecutor also tried to refute confirmed news reports that jihadists in Syria had been secretly treated in Turkish hospitals for years and that ISIS oil was smuggled into Turkey by alleging that all such claims were propaganda disseminated by the Gülen movement, a vocal critic of the Erdoğan government on a range of issues, from corruption in the government to Turkey’s aiding and abetting of armed jihadist groups.
A number of pieces of evidence have emerged in recent years pointing to the Turkish government secretly supporting armed jihadist groups from Syria to Libya. Russia disclosed confidential information in 2016 including satellite imagery of how the Erdoğan government had been trading ISIS oil from Syria and submitted intelligence documents to the UN Security Council on how Turkish intelligence service MIT was running arms to jihadists in Syria under the pretext of humanitarian assistance.
Parts of the indictment which show the prosecutor claimed intercepted arms were humanitarian assistance to Syria:antalya_jihadist_narrative2
Multiple criminal investigations in Turkey until 2015 exposed how MIT operatives and other government officials were aiding and abetting jihadists, especially al-Qaeda groups in Syria, while turning a blind eye to the ISIS smuggling of fighters, arms and logistics through the Turkish-Syrian border. Between 2014 and 2016 the Erdoğan government had sacked thousands of judges, prosecutors, police chiefs and intelligence officials for their involvement in the investigation, prosecution and trial of violent jihadists, both foreign and Turkish.
Prosecutor Tür’s claims were found in dozens of other indictments across Turkey, suggesting that elements of the indictments were dictated by the Erdoğan government, which had apparently become concerned about the possible fallout from the officials’ clandestine links to jihadists and repercussions from other countries.
The prosecutor’s claims were amplified in the government-controlled media as well. On November 4, 2017 the Sabah daily, a media outlet owned by President Erdoğan’s family, ran a news story claiming that ISIS was actually engineered by the US to serve its own interests. On November 19, 2017 Erdoğan himself said in a speech that al-Qaeda, ISIS and other groups in the Middle East were all manufactured by the United States, engineered in a lab to use when needed, repackaged at times and destroyed when necessary. A speech delivered on October 19, 2017 repeated similar allegations.
On January 19, 2018 Turkey’s then-urban and environment minister Mehmet Özhaseki claimed the US, EU and Russia had engineered ISIS to create a pretext to carve out pieces of Syria, Iraq and other countries. Turkey’s top official imam Ali Erbas, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), also uttered similar claims, saying that ISIS was made and armed by states that were enemies of Islam in order to keep people away from the religion.