Anti-Israel rallies in Turkey have been coordinated by Suheil Ahmad Hassan al-Hindi, a member of the Hamas politburo, in collaboration with Turkey’s Hizbullah, a group aligned with the Islamist government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and supported by Iran.
Al-Hindi has recently emerged as a prominent spokesperson for Hamas in Turkey, actively participating in several pro-Hamas events staged in collaboration with Turkish Islamist organizations. One of the main partners in these activities is the Hizbullah group, primarily focused on Turkey’s Kurdish population.
Following the death of senior Hamas leader, Saleh al-Arouri, in a strike carried out by Israel in Lebanon on January 2, al-Hindi has been seen as a prominent speaker in a series of events in Turkey. Al-Arouri, the founding commander of the Hamas military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, had been residing in Turkey and enjoying close contact with the top leadership of the Turkish government, including President Erdogan.
During the funeral prayer held to honor al-Arouri on January 5 at the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, al-Hindi spoke about the legacy of al-Arouri, describing him as a mujahid, a term also used by Erdogan to describe Hamas fighters. Al-Hindi said, “To keep the resistance alive, he mobilized all the resources at his disposal. In the face of the enemy, he stood his ground, resisting with the missiles and weapons in his hands. That mujahid, at the end of his life, crowned his existence with martyrdom.”
Hamas has capitalized on Al-Arouri’s death to promote the group’s radical ideology in Turkey, utilizing him as a poster boy to attract new recruits, funding and support.
The funeral was also attended by another Hamas figure, Majid Abu Hassan, who reportedly spent years in an Israeli prison with al-Arouri.
The prayer for al-Arouri was led by Enver Kılıçarslan, a convicted felon sentenced to seven and a half years in prison in February 2002 for his membership in Hizbullah, an organization separate from Lebanon’s Hezbollah and listed as a terrorist group in Turkey. Trained in Iran in 1987, Kılıçarslan was assigned to serve under the late Turkish Hizbullah leader Hüseyin Velioğlu, who was killed in a gunfight with police during a raid on a safe house in Istanbul in January 2000.
In a virulently antisemitic speech he delivered while standing next to al-Hindi, Kılıçarslan depicted Jews as pigs and monkeys and said, “Now, with America’s weapons, artillery and tanks, all European states, including the UK, France and Germany, are providing Israel with various new weapons. They are raining these weapons down on Muslims,” adding, “If Allah wills, He can destroy them all, but He is testing us to see who stands where. Hopefully, we will all witness the day when the mujahids achieve victory.”
Kılıçarslan currently leads the Union of Islamic Scholars and Madrasahs (Alimler ve Medreseler Birliği, or İTTİHADUL ULEMA), an affiliate of Turkish Hizbullah. The group, predominantly working with Kurds in Turkey, seeks to establish an Iranian-style mullah regime in the country. Past investigations revealed that Turkish Hizbullah received funding from the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Hizbullah has been politically aligned with the Erdogan government since 2014, and its political arm, HÜDA-PAR, secured three seats in parliament for the first time in last year’s election after running on the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ticket led by Erdogan.
At another event where al-Hindi was featured as a speaker on January 14 in the northwestern province of Bursa, with the support of the AKP-run municipality, he praised the Hamas attacks on Israeli targets on October 7, 2023. These attacks resulted in the death and abduction of many civilians, characterized by al-Hindi as an operation to uphold Islam and elevate the honor and dignity of Muslims.
“These brave individuals, the Al-Qassam Brigades, have brought the Zionists to their knees and instilled fear in them,” he said.
Yasin Aktay, a former advisor to the Turkish president and former deputy chairman of the AKP, was also a speaker at the same event. “With this deluge [referring to the Oct. 7 attack], people have once again started to witness oppression [by Israel], and all the nations of the world have risen up. This resistance will, with Allah’s permission, be a catalyst for an awakening,” Aktay said and predicted that Muslims would emerge victorious from the conflict, stating that the Oct. 7 attacks had awakened the spirit of resistance and expressing hope for the downfall of Jews and their imperialist supporters.
Al-Hindi was also featured as a keynote speaker at several rallies held in December across Turkey. On December 3 he traveled to Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakir and was hosted by Vedat Turgut, the provincial chairman of Hizbullah’s political arm, HÜDA-PAR. Additionally, he has frequently been interviewed by Turkey’s state-run news agency.
In 2017 al-Hindi resigned from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after his election to the Hamas politburo was made public. Following his time in Gaza, he moved to Turkey at an unspecified point in time. Currently residing in Istanbul, he is under the protection of the Erdogan government, which openly supports Hamas.
Turkey has been a destination for several senior Hamas figures seeking sanctuary. They have utilized the Turkish financial and banking system to transfer funds for overseas operations through numerous shell companies. Additionally, they engage in various commercial activities, particularly in the construction sector in Turkey, to raise substantial amounts of money. Some have obtained Turkish citizenship and passports, even adopting Turkish names as a measure to avoid detection.
Some Hamas figures and affiliated companies have been designated under the sanctions regime by the US Treasury in recent years. However, despite these designations, the Erdogan government has allowed them to operate freely in Turkish territory.