The long arm of Turkey’s Islamist ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) recently hosted an antisemitic lawyer who made disturbing statements calling for the destruction of Jews and prophesying an apocalyptic scenario in which Muslims would exterminate all Jews at the end of time.
Fatih Ünal, a prominent member of the AKP and deputy chairman of the Ankara City Council, recently traveled to Stockholm upon an invitation extended by the Swedish branch of the Union of International Democrats (UID), previously known as the Union of International Turkish Democrats (UITD), a proxy group with ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s political party.
In a tweet on October 19 Ünal wrote, “O Israel, O Zionists, O Jews: One day, a Moses will emerge to dismantle the paper castles you have constructed. The trees that provide you shelter will offer no refuge, either… There is no benefit in fearing unavoidable [death].”
The AKP politician was alluding to the widely circulated Gharqad tree prophecy, in which it is foretold that Muslims will confront and kill Jews at the end of time and suggested that this prophecy may soon come to pass. In an earlier tweet dated May 3, 2021 he expressed a desire to bear witness when this prophecy is realized.
Additionally, in another tweet on October 14, he asserted that one day Israel would face destruction, and he expressed a wish to be on the frontline when that moment arrives.
Photographs from a gathering in Stockholm on October 17 depict Ünal engaged in discussions with a group of 13 people seated around a table. Among those present were Özer Eken, who serves as the head of the UID Sweden branch, and Atila Altuntaş, a reporter from Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. The meeting was convened in an office located in Stockholm’s wholesale market situated in the Årsta district of the city.
The UID’s history of hosting controversial figures from Turkey is not limited to the recent incident. In May 2022 they extended an invitation to Abdurrahman Uzun to address the Turkish diaspora in Stockholm. Uzun, known for his past expressions of antisemitism and calls for the destruction of Israel, has also made contentious statements.
After a protest that featured a depiction of President Erdogan being hanged upside down in downtown Stockholm, Uzun described Sweden as an enemy of Turkey and pledged that Turkey would respond to Sweden using a language it understands.
Uzun is widely recognized as a social media provocateur who pushes the policies of the Erdogan government and targets critics and opponents of the president. Furthermore, he has a history of promoting hate and propagating discriminatory views against LGBTI groups. Uzun has gone as far as characterizing being gay as an illness that the West aims to introduce into Turkish society. His actions and statements align with a pattern of online trolling and aligning with the government’s agenda, often at the expense of vulnerable communities.
The UID was also involved in organizing meetings in Stockholm in April 2022 for Osman Nuri Gülaçar, a Turkish national with a controversial background. Gülaçar, who was previously indicted and briefly imprisoned on terrorism charges, has been the subject of investigations involving known al-Qaeda figures, including a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.
Gülaçar has voiced support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda in Mali and al-Shabab in Somalia, characterizing them as resistance fighters. He has also argued that Muslims are responding to Western imperialism through these groups.
The UID organization itself is known to harbor radical Islamist figures within its ranks. Talip Oguz, a UID representative in Belgium, posted a message on the X social media platform on October 10 suggesting that Israel will be eradicated and that Hamas attacks will bring relief to oppressed Muslims. He deleted the tweet after receiving strong blowback.
The UID in Sweden was established as a nonprofit organization (ideell förening) in April 2014 by Eken and his associates in the Botyrka municipality of Stockholm under registration number 802487-7535. Public records reveal that the organization shares the same address as Eken’s home residence. In March 2021 Eken was appointed general coordinator for all UID operations, spanning Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden.
During its formative years, the UID received support from Metin Külünk, a trusted associate of the Turkish president and a childhood friend. Külünk visited Stockholm in 2015 while serving as deputy chairman of the AKP’s External Relations Directorate, providing assistance and guidance in the UID’s early development.
Külünk is regarded as a radical Islamist and has been identified as one of the key figures involved in providing funding to a right-wing group known as Osmanen Germania in Germany. This funding has been linked to the group’s activities, including the procurement of weapons, the organization of protests and actions against critics of the Turkish leader.
Külünk’s alleged association with the group is not unexpected as he had previously faced prosecution for his involvement with the Islamist Akincilar (Raiders) group during the late 1970s and early ’80s. Court documents from investigations into Akıncılar during that period reveal that Külünk operated within the third cell of the armed unit of the Raiders and was responsible for weapons and armed operations.
According to witness statements included in the indictment, Külünk was reportedly the leader of the armed wing of the group. During a on July 12, 1979 police raid on a gathering of 30 or 35 individuals who were said to be undergoing arms training in a highland area known as Demirciler Yaylası in Bolu province, law enforcement discovered a handgun and dynamite blocks in Külünk’s possession.
He was also investigated as a suspect in the Islamist terrorist group known as the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front (İslami Büyük Doğu Akıncıları Cephesi, İBDA/C or IBDA-C). According to a confidential report prepared by Interior Ministry inspectors, the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court issued a ruling on September 5, 2007 authorizing the wiretapping of Külünk’s phone in decision No. 2007/4540. The request for this wiretap, filed with the court by the intelligence department of the National Security Directorate, was made on the grounds of necessity for deciphering the IBDA-C network in Turkey.
The IBDA-C, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States and known for a militant, fundamentalist stance sympathetic to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), has recruited Turkish jihadists to fight in Syria. It is staunchly antisemitic and anti-Western.
In the wake of Hamas’s terrorist attacks on October 7, subsequently prompting an escalation of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, the IBDA-C group called for a siege of all military bases hosting NATO and US troops in Turkey, a declaration of total war against Jews, the confiscation of assets belonging to Jews and those who engage in trade with Israel or support Israel’s economy and the imprisonment of Turks who have endorsed Israeli views and opposed Hamas.
“Jewish capital that belongs to Israel, that pours money into Israel and that controls the lifeline of the economy must be confiscated immediately,” declared Ali Osman Zor, a prominent figure within IBDA-C. Zor, who has a criminal record and has previously served time for engaging in terrorist activities, made this statement in a video interview that was published on the group’s online platform, adimlardergisi.com, on October 18, 2023.
The 2023 election results filed by the Turkish Embassy in Sweden shows the popularity of Erdogan’s AKP among the Turkish diaspora in Sweden:Turkish_Election_2023_results_Sweden_diaspora
In October 2016 the UID also invited Cem Küçük, a government propagandist who was investigated in 2012 for his alleged links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force in Turkey. Küçük, who works for Erdogan propaganda media outlet TGRT, was alleged to have coordinated his media work in close cooperation with government officials. He even called for the assassination of critical Turkish journalists abroad by Turkish intelligence agency MIT.
The UID has led election campaigns in support of the Turkish president and his party among the Turkish diaspora community in Sweden. It works closely with the Turkish Embassy and other Turkish government agencies. Eken himself ran an unsuccessful campaign to secure a place on the ticket of Erdogan’s political party in the 2023 national elections.
In the parliamentary elections held on May 14 of this year, Erdogan’s party came in first by winning 33 percent of all eligible votes, including 4,399 from the Turkish diaspora in Sweden. The far-right and racist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of the AKP, came in fourth with 1,403 votes, accounting for 10 percent of the eligible votes cast.
Of the 42,801 individuals eligible to vote in Turkish elections in Sweden, only 13,672 voted, constituting 31.94 percent of eligible voters. The Turkish diaspora in Sweden is estimated to number approximately 100,000 people. In the presidential election on May 28, Erdogan managed to secure 47 percent of all votes in Sweden.
The polling data indeed indicate that Erdogan and his party hold considerable influence within the Turkish diaspora in Sweden, with nearly 50 percent of expatriates supporting them. This susceptibility to the extremist narratives promoted by the Erdogan government and its extensive media apparatus is a source of concern.
Furthermore, organizations like the UID contribute to the dissemination of these extremist narratives among Turkish expatriates by inviting controversial figures from Turkey and providing them with a platform to propagate such views.