By Abdullah Bozkurt
In his latest push to secure an imperial presidency that will lead to a self-declared caliphate, Turkey’s top Islamist ruler, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is intent on fomenting chaos by staging high-profile assassinations and terror plots to mobilize Turks into supporting him in his relentless drive to transform a secular parliamentary democracy into an Islamist dictatorship.
It is not hard to spot the road markers that are abundantly clear and available for keen observers of Turkish politics. Erdoğan’s own narrative displayed publicly in rallies often describes Muslim nations, most of which used to be part of the Ottoman domain, as undeclared protectorates under the watch of Turkish leadership. In every campaign before national and presidential elections, the Turkish president has made a clear point that his political movement is fighting not only for Turkey but for all Muslims, from North Africa to the Balkans, from the Middle East to Central and Southeast Asia. He often laments how Turkey was downsized from the vast Ottoman geography encompassing 20 million square kilometers to its current 780,000 square kilometers. He underlines that World War I conditions are no longer applicable, revealing his irredentist approach and ambitions to resurrect the caliphate.
There have been numerous references to this narrative in Erdoğan’s speeches, but a survey of his key backers who have a designated role in amplifying the president’s message to the public unveils a clearer picture of where Turkey is heading. Abdurrahman Dilipak, an Islamist writer who is in fact a deep operative used by Turkey’s notorious National Intelligence Organization (MİT), revealed Erdoğan’s real ambitions in a speech he gave in Toronto when he was dispatched to fire up Erdoğan’s supporters among the expat community there. He said the caliphate was not abolished after World War I but in fact its authority was bequeathed to the Turkish Parliament. He added that by switching to an executive presidency from a parliamentary democracy, Erdoğan would assume the title of caliph. He even said Erdoğan’s newly built, multibillion-dollar lavish palace which has over 1,000 rooms will have designated rooms for every Muslim nation and community in the world. The emails of Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan’s son-in-law, revealed Erdoğan’s daily itinerary, which shows this Islamist operative meeting with the president in private, suggesting he has Erdoğan’s ear. Dilipak is Erdoğan’s special envoy who has been paraded not only in Turkey but abroad to deliver speeches on his behalf.
Another one is Kadir Mısıroğlu, a radical xenophobe who has been working with Erdoğan since the 1980s, freely preaching the idea of Erdoğan’s caliphate. Erdoğan, who personally visited Mısıroğlu at his home in December 2014 and hosted him in the presidential palace as one of the leading intellectuals in Turkey, tapped this man to promote his Islamist project to the Turkish public. This vile man claims with incursions into Syria and Iraq Erdoğan will be able to resurrect the Ottoman Empire and declare the caliphate. He even labeled voters who did not cast their vote for Erdoğan as “infidels.” Mısıroğlu, openly anti-Semitic, smears Erdoğan’s opponents as Jews and Armenians, claims the US is controlled by the Jews and predicts Israel will soon be crushed by Turkey. Mısıroğlu runs a government-backed foundation called the Ottoman Knowledge and Wisdom Foundation and preaches in Istanbul every Saturday, with his sermons broadcast live on YouTube.
Another operative in Erdoğan’s inner circle is Nureddin (or Nurettin) Yıldız, a radical cleric who is aligned with radical religious groups affiliated with al-Qaeda in Syria. He openly advocates jihad, describes democracy as a system for infidels and says it can only be used as a means of deception to rise to power. His vision perfectly fits the pattern of how Erdoğan usurped power in Turkey by using democratic elections and becoming a tyrant, jailing critics and seizing the businesses of dissenters. Yıldız works closely with Bilal Albayrak, Erdoğan’s son, and uses a youth foundation run by Bilal to indoctrinate young people in Turkey in jihadist ideology. He is often invited to lecture youth branches by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. The young police officer who assassinated the Russian ambassador in Ankara turned out to have been radicalized by Yıldız. This radical imam even suggested murdering and hacking off the hands and feet of Erdoğan’s jailed critics instead of taking care of them in prisons.
There are so many others who have been fulfilling their designated roles in Turkey under the Erdoğan regime, but this trio should be enough of a sample to shed light on what the future of Turkey will look like if Erdoğan gets his way. Since deception, fabrication and even murder are legitimized by the radical teachings of Erdoğan’s clergy, it would not be surprising to see things getting worse than the currently bad. When a twin bombing took place in Ankara on Oct. 10, 2015, the deadliest terror attack ever to take place in Turkey, which killed 104 people including the two suicide bombers, then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said the popularity of the governing AKP had increased in the aftermath of the incident. The government knew all the key culprits planning and subsequently executing the attack but did not apprehend them in advance. Appearing on public TV, Davutoğlu even said they could not arrest suicide bombers until they act.
A chaos strategy based on escalating terror incidents and irredentist nationalism has served as justification for the Erdoğan regime to crack down on opposition and perpetuate oppression. In fact, when Erdoğan’s AKP lost its majority in the June 7, 2015 elections, he orchestrated a false flag to kill police officers through operatives planted in the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). In fact, the leaked Albayrak emails revealed how an Erdoğan loyalist suggested the plot to Erdoğan’s son-in-law to provoke the PKK months before two policemen in the border town of Ceylanpinar on were killed on July 22, 2015, allegedly by the PKK. The report presented to Albayrak on June 20, 2015 and written by Cüneyt Arvasi, an Islamist who is close to Erdoğan, provides details on how to force the PKK to resume the violence.
In many terror acts since then, blamed on or claimed by either the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or the PKK, clandestine groups in the Turkish security apparatus appear to have facilitated, enabled or orchestrated them, or in some cases the authorities simply ignored the warning signs, did not pursue a crackdown and even allowed known operatives to go free. With a referendum on Erdoğan’s ambitions to become an executive president likely to take place at the end of March or in early April, growing chatter in Ankara circles suggests the same dark forces are planning to stage a high-profile assassination of political opponents.
As in the case of the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara and a staged failed coup, we’ll likely see Erdoğan blaming followers of Fethullah Gülen, US-based cleric who is a vocal critical of the Turkish president for rampant corruption, abuse of religion for political gain and an interventionist foreign policy that involves arming and funding radicals in foreign countries. As for the evidence, Erdoğan has never presented a single credible piece of evidence linking Gülen to the coup attempt, which was verified by the main editorial run by The New York Times over the weekend. The killer of the Russian envoy himself declared his affiliation to radical groups in Syria in his self-promotion next to the slain ambassador, making him a poster boy for al-Qaeda-affiliated groups. Yet, Erdoğan and his media machinery present this 76-year old ailing Muslim scholar as the key culprit without a shred of evidence.
The political assassination would enable Erdoğan to carry out further measures to dismantle the already fragile democratic institutions in Turkey, especially the secular underpinnings of the regime, so that he can move on to building his own caliphate-like structures. The violence will strain the political and social fabric of Turkey, weaken the already ineffective opposition and most importantly provide Erdoğan with an opportunity to manipulate public anger to further consolidate his power. As a result, Erdoğan hopes to kill three birds with one stone through planned assassinations: One is to further defame Gülen, the second is to kill the feeble opposition, and the third is to secure an imperial presidency embedded within the caliphate.
The problem, however, is that Erdoğan’s steamrolling tactics, backed by terrorism and murders, is suffocating Turkey’s economy and finances, pushing its social fabric toward a rupture and stirring up more troubles with allies and partners. Today, this nasty politician who knows no boundaries to his rule has obviously become a liability for Turkey and the world. He is a major problem in the region that must be dealt with for the stability of Turkey and its neighborhood.