Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) parliamentary group deputy chairman Özgür Özel claimed at a press conference at parliament on Thursday that a channel called Ebabil Harekatı (Operation Swift) on the Telegram encrypted messaging app which he claims is led by Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman has been organizing smear campaigns against opponents. Ebabil had mobilized its members several times in the past in failed attempts to suspend Nordic Monitor’s social media accounts.
Özel said 8,000 trolls are affiliated with Ebabil and that they receive special training to target opposition politicians on social media.
Özel stated that Emin Şen, who has been Soylu’s social media advisor since 2016, traveled from city to city to organize a strong troll army among ruling party supporters.
Giving examples of the people against whom Ebabil has campaigned in recent years, Özel also alleged that Şen has been using the official Twitter accounts of the Security General Directorate and the Gendarmerie Command, showing printouts of tweets containing insults of CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu sent by an iPhone he claims is used by Şen.
He also told reporters that the temporary suspension of the Twitter account of CHP Istanbul Provincial Chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu in 2020 was accomplished due to the efforts of Ebabil members, who later shared messages congratulating each other.
“When Soylu tweets, it gets retweeted 3,000 times within minutes. That’s thanks to Ebabil,” said Özel.
Özel also stated that public tenders were awarded to companies owned by Şen for the financing of the troll army and said Şen, a civil servant, cannot legally own a private company or take part in tenders.
The interior ministry quickly published a statement after Özel’s press conference, claiming that Şen was not a civil servant but rather a private advisor to Minister Soylu. The ministry said that is not classified information and already exists on open sources.
However, during the press conference, the official web page of the ministry was updated, and Şen’s title, which had previously been listed as counselor, meaning he was a civil servant, was changed to that of advisor (danışman).
Ebabil sent messages to its members on October 11, 2020 and February 21, 2021 to report Nordic Monitor’s Turkish and English accounts to Twitter. They launched a campaign for the deletion of several tweets posted by Nordic Monitor, wrongfully claiming that the messages included hate rhetoric and confidential private information. In a message posted on Telegram and obtained by Nordic Monitor, management gave step-by-step instructions to members on how to report Nordic Monitor.
Ebabil’s posts targeting Nordic Monitor Editor-in-Chief Abdullah Bozkurt stated that Nordic Monitor, which they claim to be based in Norway, produces news stories against Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“We hope we are suspending the accounts of pawns of Hasan Sabbah [a Shiite leader who ordered his followers to launch suicide attacks against enemy targets around 1100] , who have sold their so-called Muslim souls to the devil, inshallah,” the message reads.
Meanwhile, the name of the troll group Ebabil (Swift) has a symbolic meaning for Islamists. The swift is a highly aerial bird mentioned in the Quran, the Muslim holy book. An infidel ruler from today’s Yemen had organized an army of elephants to destroy the sacred Kaaba in Mecca in 570; however, he was defeated by a group of swifts that dropped rocks on the elephants.
In 2019 Nordic Monitor had revealed troll armies financed by the government to smear and defame critics and opponents while fueling a campaign of hatred targeting vulnerable groups such as Christians, Jews, members of the Kurdish political movement, participants of the Gülen movement and others as well as the connections between Soylu and the trolls.
Nordic Monitor reported that Interior Minister Soylu, former deputy prime minister Besir Atalay, Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank and Erdoğan’s spokesman İbrahim Kalın were senior generals in Erdoğan’s troll army, while family members Bilal Erdoğan, his son, Berat Albayrak, his son-in-law, and Sümeyye Erdoğan, his daughter, serve as tacticians in shaping and organizing campaigns according to the desires of the family crime boss, President Erdoğan.
Soylu, a right-wing politician and a staunchly anti-Western figure, runs the operational command, while Atalay, an academic and die-hard supporter of Iran’s mullah regime, generates the content. Varank is the liaison officer between the army and the office of President Erdoğan. When Erdoğan family members want feedback on running specific campaigns, they run it by Varank, who then gives orders to the generals in the field.
In a leaked February 2014 telephone conversation between Varank and Sümeyye, Erdoğan’s daughter was heard appealing to Varank to order what she called “our trolls” to support a campaign she was about to launch. In the Red Hack-leaked emails of Albayrak dated Oct. 23, 2013, Erdoğan’s son-in-law was also identified as the man who coordinated some dozen anti-Semitic and anti-Western video clips that were uploaded to YouTube from four different countries. Various themes like an anti-NATO plot against Turkey in the face of a possible purchase of Chinese long-range missiles, alleged British and German intelligence operations in Turkey, secret Masons, an Armenian conspiracy and other fringe media stories were featured in these videos. They were approved by Berat Albayrak before being uploaded to the internet. They were also sent to Serhat Albayrak, his brother, who manages the Sabah media outlet for Erdoğan’s family.