A former high-level official in Turkey is speaking out about government sponsorship of Daesh (Isis/Isil) and other terrorist groups.
Ahmet Sait Yayla was on the front line of Turkey’s intervention in the Syrian conflict. He was Chief of the Counter-Terrorism and Operations Division of Turkey’s National Police from 2010 to 2012. But after witnessing Turkish state collusion with Daesh, he chose to speak out, accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of deliberately sponsoring the group.
Since starting to blow the whistle on this relationship, Yayla’s family has been targeted. After July’s failed coup attempt – which mounting evidence suggests was actually “staged” by Erdoğan’s regime, his 19-year-old son was arrested, and other members of his family had their passports cancelled. All because of the explosive information he was revealing.
The Canary has now seen exclusive interview transcripts obtained by INSURGE Intelligence – a summary of which is given below.
Backing for jihadis under the veil of charity
One of Yayla’s biggest allegations is that Turkish intelligence actively armed and supported jihadi groups in Syria.
In 2014, allegations were made that ammunition and weapons had been found in trucks supposedly transporting aid from the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) into Syria. This non-governmental organisation allegedly had the support of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT).
In his interview with INSURGE, Yayla alleges that IHH is integrated into Turkey’s sponsorship of terror groups.
He states that IHH has long been a key partner of the Turkish International Cooperation Agency (TIKA) – the official government aid agency , and that the main contact for the IHH was Hakan Fidan (MİT chief since 2010). Fidan was a prime suspect in a number of targeted assassinations of left-wing intellectuals, journalists, and human rights advocates in the 1990s. And the perpetrators of these terrorist attacks had links to Turkish Hizbollah (TH) – a right-wing group which emerged in the 1980s and was allegedly controlledby Turkish armed forces from the very beginning. (Note that a key Daesh figure in Turkey today, Halis Bayancuk, is the son of a founding member of TH.)
Though a wanted man, Fidan returned from self-imposed exile after Erdoğan’s AKP party took power in 2002. His ‘wanted’ status soon disappeared.
During counter-terrorism investigations, Yayla says, evidence showed that the IHH was “behind much of the support to ISIS” coming from Turkey, with several hundred supply trucks being sent into Syria from 2012 onwards.
But the IHH wasn’t the only group supporting jihadis in Syria. Yayla, who had unrestricted access to relevant police records at the time, says:
The MİT openly carried weapons and explosives to Syria by truck as well as by actual fighters being transported by buses, several times. Some of them were caught by Turkish police… [and] drivers openly admitted that [the] MİT had hired them to transport those terrorists and foreign fighters.
Photo of Daesh member preparing improvised “hell fireball” missiles constructed from propane tanks obtained in Turkey with complicity of Turkish security agencies. Provided by Ahmet Yayla to INSURGE
Head to head with government-Daesh collusion
Yayla also speaks of how the Governor of Şanlıurfa – a city near the Turkish-Syrian border – openly spoke to jihadi groups in front of him. He explains how, from 2013 to 2014:
ISIS fighters were being brought across the border into Şanlıurfa to be treated in Turkish hospitals. As chief of police, I was being asked by the governor to send my officers to provide 24/7 protection for those wounded terrorists… No one charged any money for the treatment.
This happened until 2015, when increasing pressure from the US to join the fight against Daesh, along with a number of anti-jihadi successes in northern Syria, led Erdoğan to make a political shift to all-out war against his secular enemies at home and abroad.
By then, Yayla had already been pushed out of these operations for his failure to fall in line, being moved by the Governor from counter-terrorism to the Public Order and Investigations Department.
Police prevented from arresting terrorists
But even in a different department, Yayla entered into conflict with the Turkish political establishment. In Şanlıurfa, he says:
Basically, the police were not allowed to stop ISIS inside the city… Turkish counter-terrorism officers would reach out to our officers through direct phone contact and tell them to just release the terrorists.
He also insists that:
Erdoğan had in 2015 assigned [now leader of Daesh operations in Turkey, Halis] Bayancuk 24/7 police protection.
Senior detectives following suspected terrorists, meanwhile, would be told by the counter-terrorism department: “Don’t stop them, it’s not your job.” And they’d then be investigated themselves.
In the city of Gaziantep, close to the Turkish-Syrian border, Yayla speaks of how Daesh had a massive “logistical support base”. Once also a base for TH and al-Qaeda, thousands of uniforms were made there, there were “huge apartments filled with jihadists”, and fighters would “go back and forth across the border freely”.
This consciously blind eye from the government saw Daesh ramp up its activities and attacks in Turkey. But with some police officers not on board with this collusion, Erdoğan needed a crackdown. And the July coupwas a perfect opportunity to do this.
Why has Turkey backed Daesh?
For Erdoğan, political Islam is merely a useful tool to consolidate his support base in Turkey. And it is now his main tool to use against all domestic opposition to his rule – in particular the Kurds, who are a potent fighting force against ISIS.
Victory for Kurdish-led defence militias over Daesh in northern Syria in early 2015 set off a chain of events that saw Erdoğan finally abandon a promising peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in July 2015. Terror attacks on Turkish soil aimed at left-wing and Kurdish activists increased, and President Erdoğan launched a destructive and divisive offensive on Kurdish communities. The aim, apparently, was to undermine the budding popularity of left-wing secularism in Kurdish communities in both Syria and Turkey, and to keep the border open in order to influence the outcome of the Syrian conflict in a way acceptable to Erdoğan’s regime.
For Erdoğan, allowing Kurdish political autonomy in Turkey or on the Syrian side of the border could lead to a loss of power on the Turkish border with Iran, Iraq, and Syria – a loss that would seriously undermine his regional political ambitions. This is why he’s gone to such great lengths to stop the growth of Kurdish-led secularism.
If Yayla’s assertions are to be believed, we now have yet more evidence that Erdoğan’s regime has armed and supported Daesh for years. Yet more evidence that Western citizens and their governments ignore at their own peril.