Turkey’s Foreign Ministry helped two Islamist operatives linked to Turkish intelligence obtain a Schengen visa from the Belgian Consulate in Istanbul, using diplomatic channels to deliver an official communiqué and secure urgent approval.
According to leaked documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, the foreign ministry delivered a diplomatic note under the “most urgent” classification to the Belgian Embassy in Ankara on May 19, 2017, asking for its help in obtaining a Schengen visa from the Belgian Consulate in Istanbul for two officials from the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), run by the family of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
TÜGVA, which operates as an extension of Turkish intelligence under the cover of an NGO, has a secret mandate to recruit young people in Turkey and in diaspora communities abroad to help support the Islamist regime of President Erdoğan. The foundation runs dozens of dormitories across Turkey, has access to public schools under cultural cooperation schemes and actively promotes political Islam in line with the Muslim Brotherhood ideology.
In the communiqué the foreign ministry’s Directorate General for Protocol vouched for Ismail Emanet, the head of TÜGVA, and his deputy Seçkin Koç and declared that the purpose of their visit to Brussels was related to a NATO summit. Both operatives were embedded in the official delegation of President Erdoğan, who was scheduled to participate in the summit in Belgium on May 25.
Turkish Foreign Ministry’s urgent diplomatic note to the Belgian Embassy in Ankara:Tugva_schengen_visa_Belgium_embassy
However, an internal memo leaked from the TÜGVA archives, also obtained by Nordic Monitor, shows that the two TÜGVA officials planned to have an audience with the president aboard his plane to discuss the foundation’s activities and obtain directives on how to pursue operations in Turkey and overseas.
The memo mentioned Khaled Mashal, the former Hamas leader and currently the head of Hamas’s politburo abroad; Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood figure Rashid al-Gannushi; and Bosnian Muslim politician Bakir Izetbegovic, formerly the Bosniak member of the Presidency of Bosnia, as figures TÜGVA could reach out to as part of its plan to mobilize youth in Turkey and invite them to a major youth convention there.
The memo also indicated that the TÜGVA operatives were set to talk on the plane to Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Erdoğan’s chief advisor and spokesman, İbrahim Kalın, to identify study areas the foundation ought to be focusing on in the future. TÜGVA organized a special project to train experts on specific countries and place them in government jobs to help steer Turkish foreign policy. References provided by the foundation have helped thousands gain access to government jobs, often on the basis of ideological zealotry, with a total disregard of merit and without a competitive and transparent selection process.
Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) headquarters in Istanbul.
In many cases, references from Turkish jihadist charity the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri ve İnsani Yardım Vakfı, or IHH), which helped both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), played a significant role in landing government jobs as revealed in the leaked emails of Erdoğan’s son in-law Berat Albayrak in the fall of 2016.
It is clear that the Erdoğan government secretly directed the operations of the foundation and used a presidential trip to attend a NATO summit as a cover to discuss policy goals and methods of implementation. TÜGVA is also active in a number of diaspora communities across Europe, and foundation officials move around freely on visas secured by the government to expand the network abroad.
TÜGVA’s letter to the Belgian Consulate in Istanbul:TUGVa_Letter_Belgium_consulate_visa_request
At the time the foreign ministry’s communiqué was drafted, Emanet was the president of TÜGVA. He now serves as a member of the foundation’s High Advisory Board along with Bilal Erdoğan. In a separate letter to the Belgian Consulate in Istanbul, a TÜGVA employee named Mahmut Emin Yalçınkaya, Emanet’s secretary, informed the consulate that Emanet and his deputy would attend the NATO summit and requested the speedy issuance of visas. The letter did not explain in what capacity TÜGVA would be present at the NATO meeting. The letter was submitted along with the foreign ministry’s communiqué.
Interestingly enough, the four-page visa application documents submitted to the consulate listed Emanet’s employer not as TÜGVA but as İstanbul Gas Distribution Industry and Trade, Inc. (İGDAŞ), a company owned and operated by the Istanbul Greater Municipality, which was under the control of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the time.
Internal TÜGVA memo describes the topics to be discussed by the foundation’s top official with President Erdoğan aboard the plane on their way to Brussels:Tugva_topics_presidential_Plane_Erdogan
İGDAŞ is Turkey’s largest gas distribution network and was used by the government as a place to install cronies and partisans who drew salaries but actually never worked there. When the opposition won the local Istanbul elections in 2019, many including Emanet who were employed by the gas company had to leave.
The authenticity of the documents, memos and other materials were verified by Enes Eminoğlu, the current head of TÜGVA, who admitted that someone from inside had leaked them.