In a decision published in the Official Gazette on November 30, the Turkish government announced that it had frozen the assets of 17 people, 16 of whom reside in Turkey, on the grounds that they are affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Fourteen of the people living in Turkey were granted Turkish citizenship, and all of the Turkish residents also have tax ID numbers. Four companies belonging to these people were also seized.
The ministers interior and finance signed the decision, which stated that “the properties of persons affiliated with the ISIS terrorist organization were confiscated, based on the existence of reasonable grounds for carrying out the acts that fall within the scope of the of the Law on the Prevention of the Financing of Terrorism.”
Maher Dughaim, Hassan Dgaim, Badea Hakmi, Mustafa Arja, Radwan Saksouk, Mohamed Alla Saksouk, Hussain Hussain, Khaled Saksouk, Mhd Rateb Khattab, Zouhair Sahloul, Ahmed Obisi, Mejid Sukariye, Yasser Kibar and İhsan Mahdi Salih Salih, who appeared on the list of terrorism suspects, turned out to be Turkish citizens since their identification numbers are included on the list. Only Turkish citizens can obtain an ID number.
The four seized companies were set up between 2016 and 2017. ISIS established numerous fly-by-night companies in Turkey in order to launder money or deliver it to its fighters in Iraq and Syria.
The only name on the list who does not reside in Turkey is Imed ben Salah, also known as Abou Abdallah Ettounsi. A Tunisian Salafist sheik, Ettounsi was expelled from Egypt in 2013 for obtaining false travel documents for ISIS fighters.20221201-2
As of October 20, 2022, there were 3,622,486 documented Syrians under temporary protection status in Turkey. According to official records, 211,908 Syrians have been granted Turkish citizenship. Opposition parties claim that this number is actually much higher and that the government secretly naturalized many more Syrians in order to increase their votes in the 2023 elections. Turkish media reported that a significant number of naturalized Syrians changed their names so as to not be noticed in the voter registration polls.
Turkey’s most-wanted list includes a few ISIS suspects, while many critics who have nothing to do with terrorism are included on the list of fugitives, yet another sign of how the government is not really interested in cracking down on ISIS. There are only 84 alleged ISIS members out of the 1,304 people named on the list, amounting to roughly 6 percent of the total being sought. Since its creation, the list has never included Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former leader of ISIS who was killed in a US raid in October 2019, a few kilometers from the Turkish border in northern Syria, despite the fact that ISIS has killed more than 200 civilians in Turkey and abroad and a number of soldiers, including two who were burnt alive, and carried out a car bomb attack against the Turkish police. Similarly, al-Baghdadi’s successor, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, who was reportedly killed this week, is not listed as wanted.
Nordic Monitor previously reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been thwarting efforts to obtain information on the number of convicted ISIS terrorists in Turkey, invoking national security concerns to justify not releasing ISIS figures to the public.
The government has not responded to multiple questions submitted by lawmakers to the Parliament Speaker’s Office, refusing to reveal the number of successful convictions in ISIS cases across the country. Similar attempts by citizens who used the Right to Information Act to find out how many ISIS terrorists had been convicted and imprisoned also failed, with the Erdoğan government again invoking national security concerns to justify withholding the information.
It is not known how many ISIS terrorists have actually been released from detention centers and prisons in Turkey because the government has never announced the figure. However, it is estimated that thousands of ISIS militants were let go from detention based on statistics provided by government officials at various times. The criminal justice system in Turkey, under the strict control of the Islamist government, has systematically failed to jail ISIS militants.
Meanwhile the pro-government media on Friday reported that Turkish intelligence had detained five senior ISIS figures in an operation carried out in Syria. Turkey launches such operations against ISIS militants before international summits and Erdoğan’s important foreign meetings to give the impression that it is fighting terrorism. The detention of the ISIS members in Syria and the seizure of 17 ISIS members’ assets yesterday give the impression of a propaganda effort before a ground operation Turkey is planning to soon launch in northern Syria.
Turkey’s lack of transparency in the fight against ISIS is fueling fears that ISIS could rise again in the region, particularly after a possible Turkish military operation that could facilitate the escape of hundreds of ISIS prisoners from a camp that is guarded by Kurdish forces.