Military intelligence documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed that the Turkish army profiled officers based on their religious and minority affiliations and made negative annotations to their records.
The documents shed light on systematic and unlawful profiling in the Turkish military, NATO’s second largest army in terms of manpower, that in particular singled out officers with non-Muslim and minority backgrounds.
The number of non-Muslim and minority officers in the Turkish army was already low since most were rejected during the application and screening processes when they applied to military schools. The very few who managed to get into military schools often had to hide their background and affiliation for fear of targeted discrimination and stigmatization.
It is not clear who made handwritten annotations next to the names of officers in the documents, but the detailed information indicates comments were made based on confidential intelligence gathered on the officers over the years. There is no date on the documents but they are believed to be from 2015 or 2016 considering names and ranks. The documents cover officers and their commanders in a mechanized unit based in Ankara, suggesting that similar work was being done in other units as well with the approval of General Staff headquarters.
Confidential military intelligence document that shows how the Turkish army profiled an officer because his nephew worked as a Christian missionary:profile_Turkish_army1_Redacted
In one document, Capt. S.K. was identified as being of Greek descent with a minus sign in red next to his name, implying that his advancement in the ranks was not approved because of his non-Turkish ethnic background. The full name of the officer as well as those of others have been redacted in the document obtained by Nordic Monitor. In another document 1st Lt. K.Y. was flagged because his family is non-Muslim and he suffered from cardiac problems.
Some of the comments made about the officers describe problems such as alcohol addiction, womanizing and psychological troubles. That means being non-Muslim or of non-Turkish descent are considered to be equivalent to such problems in the eyes of the General Staff.
The comments made about officers included immediate and distant family members as well, according to the profiling data, which means the Turkish army does not see any problem with the concept of guilt by association in destroying officers’ reputations. In another document Lt. O.E. was red flagged and received a negative mark because his entire family was said to consume alcohol. First Lt. B.A was flagged because his nephew was a Christian missionary.
Confidential military intelligence document red flagged an officer because his family consumed alcohol:profile_Turkish_army2_Redacted
The sentiment against non-Turks and non-Muslims in Turkey has been on the rise, with senior Turkish officials constantly using harsh anti-Western rhetoric. The illegal profiling of officers in the army based on their religious preferences and ethnic orientation reflects the overall view of the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who often portrays non-Muslims as enemies.
Erdoğan often accuses his critics and opponents of working with non-Muslims and describes Turks who cooperate with other faiths as traitors who are betraying Islamic teachings. One of his fierce critics, Fethullah Gülen, Turkish Muslim scholar resident in the US, has been on the receiving end of Erdoğan’s wrath because Gülen has advocated for interfaith dialogue for decades.
Erdoğan had slammed interfaith dialogue efforts in the past, saying there can’t be dialogue between Islam and Christianity, in a xenophobic speech he delivered to lawmakers in the Pakistani Parliament in November 2016 during an official visit to the country.
In 2015 an indictment filed against Gülen under orders from the Turkish president listed Gülen’s 1998 meeting with the pope at the Vatican as criminal evidence. In a new indictment submitted to the court in March 2022, prosecutors alleged that the Gülen movement had established dialogue with Jewish and Christian organizations around the globe, and that was cited as criminal evidence against the group.
Since 2016 nearly 30,000 members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have been dismissed by the government because of their views and alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement. The purge specifically targeted pro-NOTO officers, and two-thirds of the flag officers in the military were removed summarily and arbitrarily from their positions. Many were later subjected to politically motivated criminal charges and ended up in jail.
Confidential military intelligence document that shows how the Turkish army profiled an officer because his family was not Muslim:profile_Turkish_army3_Redacted