Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday remotely addressed high school students who were attending a summer camp organized by an Islamist youth foundation run by his family members during a gathering at which Erdoğan’s daughter was the guest of honor, telling them, “I dream of the conquest with you,” referring to the capture of a place from infidels.
The Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) arranged a series of educational summer camps for pupils from all over Turkey in the northern Aegean Gulf of Saros, consisting of six sessions — three for boys and three for girls. The government-funded foundation covers transportation and food expenses while students are offered religious lessons, sports and entertainment activities. Organizers also ask students to memorize some sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and teach them the main theological concepts of Islam as well as some Ottoman Turkish. The foundation’s website states that the purpose of the camp is to raise awareness of being a member of the Ummah, the collective community of Muslims.
The girls’ camp had a guest of honor on Saturday. Sümeyye Erdoğan, the president’s daughter and the wife of Selçuk Bayraktar, whose family company produces drones used by the Turkish military, visited Saros and participated in several activities, including archery and and a tour of the sports track. Sümeyye took the stage in the evening to cheers and addressed the young people in attendance. With a banner saying “Jerusalem awaits you. Rush to help like Salah ad-Din did” (a sultan considered a hero by Muslims who won Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187) behind her, she also had a surprise for the audience. She called her father on her cell phone and had him address the students, who screamed for joy when they learned that president was on the line.
TÜGVA executives repeatedly said “God bless you” to Erdoğan, who addressed the audience on the phone.
Accompanied by chants heard at his party meetings, Erdoğan started his talk by thanking the organizers and called members of TÜGVA Turkey’s bright future, adding that he dreams of conquest with them.
In addition to female Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies Rümeysa Kadak, Zeynep Yıldız and Çiğdem Karaaslan and AKP women’s branch president Rabia İlhan, Osman Nuri Kabaktepe, chairman of the ruling AKP’s provincial organization in Istanbul was among the guest speakers. Kabaktepe, who was appointed after the AKP dramatically lost the municipal elections in Istanbul in 2019 and was tasked with delivering party messages to young voters, is known as an Islamist with a militant background. Nordic Monitor previously reported that Kabaktepe was monitored by police intelligence over his alleged links to the Muslim Youth Organization (Müslüman Gençlik Örgütü), a terrorist group that functioned as a breeding ground for armed jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda. Documents indicate that police intelligence started monitoring Kabaktepe’s Gmail and Hotmail accounts on August 29, 2011. A wiretap request submitted to the court listed Kabaktepe as a suspect who was linked to the Muslim Youth terrorist group. Kabaktepe also works closely with controversial charity group the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or IHH), a pro-government Islamist organization that was accused of smuggling arms to al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in Syria and Libya and acts as a hub for installing religious fanatics and zealots in government jobs with the help of the Turkish president’s family enterprise.
Controlled by Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan, TÜGVA plays a crucial role in the dissemination of Erdoğan’s radical Islamist ideology and in controlling the religious realm of Turkish society. Erdoğan often describes the aim of TÜGVA and other family organizations as “working for the construction of a new civilization,” and they act as quasi-official regime charities.
The ideological underpinnings of family foundations are rooted in political Islamist activism with alarming jihadist leanings. When examined as to who drives the ideological basis for these foundations, two controversial names come to mind. One is Hayrettin Karaman, also known as the chief fatwa (religious edict) giver for Erdoğan, whom he effectively declared caliph. Karaman, who openly advocated the view that all Muslims are obliged under Islam to support Erdoğan, is in fact a Turkish version of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who endorsed suicide bombings and armed rebellion in Syria.
Another ideologue is Nureddin Yıldız, a radical cleric who is close to the Turkish president. Yıldız openly advocates armed jihad, describes democracy as a system for infidels and says it can only be used as a means of deception to rise to power. Yıldız is the man who radicalized the young al Nusra-affiliated police officer who assassinated the Russian ambassador to Turkey in December 2016.
He had close ties to the leader of Ahrar al-Sham, Hassan Abboud, also known by the nom de guerre Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi, who was killed in September 2014. Yıldız had pictures with Abboud during a visit to İdlib. Nordic Monitor reported on his remarks about the conquest of Jerusalem and wiping out the Jews. “When Turkish women abide by the Medina Charter instead of the Istanbul Convention and prefer the protection of God rather than human protection, the Jews will be disappeared and Jerusalem be ready for a new [Islamic] conquest,” he said.