Islamist groups sympathetic to Hamas are collaborating with the Turkish Ministry of Education to organize educational seminars on Palestine for middle school and high school students.
An Islamist association named Beytülmakdis Öncüleri (Pioneers of Jerusalem) in collaboration with the Jerusalem Research Platform, is conducting educational sessions under the “My Palestine” project for thousands of students in schools in Istanbul’s Başakşehir district. Supported by the Başakşehir Imam Hatip (Religious High Schools) Graduates and Members Association, the organization declares, “It’s time for loyalty to the lands of Palestine; Başakşehir Youth say ‘My Palestine,’ and they are starting to get to know the Palestinian issue.”
As part of the project, students not only attend classes but also read assigned books, and at the end of the project they will take an exam.
According to the limited information on the website of the main partner of the My Palestine project, Beytülmakdis Öncüleri was established in Istanbul in 2014. The activities of the association are framed within the principle that Jerusalem belongs to Islam and Muslims.
The association, in a video dated November 7 on X, previously known as Twitter, referred to the attacks by Hamas on Israel on October 7 as the “Holy Passage” and stated, “Even if our blood is shed, we will be the winners.”
Muharrem Güneş, the president of the association, expresses support and admiration for Hamas militants on his X account. In one recent tweet he shared an image with the caption, “The fate of two gay Israeli soldiers will be decided by a TOW anti-tank missile.” Ironically, he makes reference to an American missile in relation to the deaths of the Israeli soldiers.
Another tweet conveys pride in the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military unit of Hamas, also expressing admiration for their sincerity, belief and achievements as well as pride in their soldiers and leaders. The post concludes with a note praying to be together with them in paradise.
On Güneş’s YouTube page is an interview with Hamas’s former leader, Khaled Mashal, conducted on November 25.
The aggressive campaign in Turkey supporting Hamas has raised concerns about increased radicalization in the country. The Turkish government’s endorsement of this campaign, coupled with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s anti-Israel stance and open support for Hamas, has contributed to the influence of Hamas propaganda, reaching a wider audience across Turkey.
The concern is justified by instances in which individuals influenced by Hamas propaganda were involved in deadly incidents in Turkey. For example Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, the assassin of the Russian ambassador to Turkey in 2016, was found to be a supporter of Hamas. Similar connections were observed in other cases, such as the twin bombing in Ankara in 2015, in which an ISIS militant supporting Hamas was involved.
The influence of Hamas is also evident in cases such as the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and the activities of jihadist groups like Tahşiyeciler. Yasin Hayal, who convinced 17-year-old Ogün Samast to carry out the murder of Dink on January 19, 2007, has long been a staunch supporter of Hamas. According to intelligence documents, he led protests in the northeastern province of Trabzon after Israel’s killing of Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2014. Hayal had also attempted to travel to Chechnya with the intention of participating in jihad and had been involved in a bomb attack at a Trabzon branch of McDonald’s in October 2004.
Nordic Monitor previously published a story highlighting the promotion of Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in Turkey. The Erdogan government and radical Islamist groups in Turkey openly support Abu Ubaida, celebrating the October 7 attacks by the al-Qassam Brigades against Israeli targets. The campaign includes government officials, advisors and lawmakers praising Abu Ubaida as a hero, with banners featuring his image displayed across Turkey.
The government’s endorsement of such campaigns raises concerns about potential radicalization in Turkey, with fears that law enforcement may not take adequate measures to counteract this trend. The influence of Iran-supported networks, such as the Tevhid Selam group, in promoting the dispatch of Turkish jihadists to support Hamas is also significant. The Erdogan government’s purge of officials investigating radical Islamist groups further complicates efforts to address the issue.
Erdogan describes Hamas as a liberation group engaged in a battle to protect its lands and people, rejecting the characterization of it as a terrorist organization.
The government’s increasingly pro-Hamas narrative, voiced by high-ranking officials, has been widely propagated through the extensive media apparatus and the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), which oversees approximately 80,000 mosques in Turkey and abroad.
Radical groups aligned with the Erdogan government, including the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), Turkey’s Hizbullah, the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders Front (IBDA/C or IBDA-C) and other Islamist organizations, have organized street demonstrations in front of the Israeli and US embassies and consulates.
As a result of this extensive campaign in Turkey, there has been a noticeable rise in antisemitism, negatively impacting the cohesion of Turkish society. This trend could potentially escalate, posing an increased risk of violent and terrorist attacks against Jews and individuals critical of Hamas.