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Erdogan regime: ‘Intelligence diplomacy’ or silent ‘state terrorism’?

A portrait picture arrives on my desk.  It shows two people against a black background. The contrast is sharp enough. One person in the top right corner, I recognize. He is the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The other one in the mid bottom left, I don’t know. I come to learn later he is the country’s vice-president, Fuat Oktay.

My mind is attracted by the president in dark glasses. I recall my favorite Ian Fleming’s James Bond spy book series, tagged 007. Whoever made the choice of Erdogan’s photograph must have had a special added value taste for news. More than 100 people abducted thanks to ‘intelligence diplomacy’, partially says a headline.

The story lead quotes vice-president Fuat Oktay making a speech in parliament and disclosing that more than 100 people with alleged links with Fethullah Gulen have been forcibly returned to Turkey by operatives of the National Intelligence Organization (MiT) thanks to “intelligence diplomacy”. Strange, and without even a grain of constitution respect, from the mouth of the vice-president come the words that Turkish agents have conducted “diplomacy” with their counterparts in countries where Turkish nationals were abducted.

Without shame, for more than six years since the false flag coup of 2016, the Erdogan’s government has used extrajudicial methods to return its critics in cases where official requests were denied. The question is: How can this pass for “diplomacy”? Isn’t this “terrorism” per se? Something that also makes serious abuse of the red star and crescent Turkish flag and the national constitution?

In May last year (19th  to be exact) President Erdogan was quoted by Anadolu state news agency as telling a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party that the government “had recently apprehended an important member of FETO and that he would soon announce who that person is and give that person’s identity.” Within hours a photograph of handcuffed Fethullah Gulen’s nephew, Selahattin Gulen, was published.

image 7
Selahattin Gulen

The scene was ugly. Flanking a victim of abduction with two national flags is an abuse to the star which stands for independence as it is to the crescent (faith) and the red background (the precious blood shed for the Republic). Letters of the national constitution, the mother of all laws, define the spirit of the national flag. So, breaching any of those provisions amounts to trampling on the Constitution which is a crime. Spicing a crime does not make it legal. There is nothing diplomatic about a crime. There is no way one can put forward words like ‘using a friendly weapon’ for a reduced rape sentence.

Selahattin was abducted in broad daylight by MiT agents from Kenya’s capital Nairobi in East Africa, whisked to the airport and flown to Turkey, more than 4,600 kilometres away. In this criminal act, Selahattin lost his right to freedom as prescribed in the national flag’s star. Abduction involves the use of force during which torture is a normal thing. It is unreligious because Islam outlaws the use of force.  

The abduction of Selahattin was not an isolated case. Earlier on, was a similar incident in Kyrgyzstan, also involving a teacher, prompting students to storm the Turkish embassy demanding the return of their teacher. Kenya was silent, raising a question as to whether the country’s intelligence did not actually know something about the operation.  

Since the July 2016 controversial failed coup, agents from the Turkish national intelligence organization (MIT) have intensified this dirty game at home and extended it to other countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa. The target has mainly been anybody, however remotely, linked with Gulen and the Hizmet movement. Selahattin’s ‘crime’ is being Fethullah Gulen’s nephew.

Over these years, even much earlier in some cases, Turkey has become one among countries that have conducted renditions from host sites, pursuing its perceived enemies.  Some reports put the number of countries close to 50. The operations have spelt systematic torture to the extent that operatives wait until wounds have healed before handing over their victims to the police.

Erdogan has also attempted to convince countries to join his personal fight against the Hizmet members within their borders even contrary to their own laws. Some have fallen in the trap to arrest and deport members of the Gulen movement. Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Georgia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Myanmar, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Turkmenistan are some of these countries.

In Myanmar, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, and Sudan, the countries didn’t even follow their own laws while carrying out the deportations. In some, the local intelligence agencies cooperated to seize Gulen followers, while in some others, Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency (MİT) didn’t even need to ask for permission to stage an operation. In Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Malaysia, and Pakistan, even Erdogan’s opponents who had applied for asylum or had UN protection against persecution have been deported or left to be kidnapped by MIT agents.  Of course this is in breach of international law and existing protocols to which even Turkey is or was signatory. 

One can understand how a government can arrest or abduct its citizens within its borders. But a big question arises when such operations assume cross-border dimensions.  Why should a government subject its subjects to such repression even on foreign land? Turkey has deteriorated to the extent of becoming part of the club of countries which hardly respect the foreign jurisdictions while conspiring against persons or communities they consider or classify as the enemy.

The Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons states, “forced disappearance of persons is… a grave and abominable offense against the inherent dignity of the human being.”  It also adds, “forced disappearance of persons violates numerous non-derogable and essential human rights” and reaffirms that the systematic practice of disappearance “constitutes a crime against humanity.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) expands upon this definition of enforced disappearance, detailing it as the “arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.”

Article 1 of the 2006 Convention on Enforced Disappearance states categorically: “No one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance…No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.”

Why then does Erdogan’s regime engage in terrorizing, abducting, and transporting people around the world and continue to violate widely recognized international laws and national sovereignty of countries subjected to such operations?  It is all by design. On April 17, 2014, the Turkish Parliament made a critical change in the laws of the land by empowering the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) with the legal authority to conduct undercover missions outside Turkey’s borders. 

Three years later, a decree-law put the MİT under the presidency and Erdogan was assigned the chair of the National Intelligence Coordination Council (MİKK) which is the main strategy-making body for MİT’s moves outside Turkey.  This is where African indigenous knowledge conceptualizes a situation like crowning a mad man.  What should the world expect from MIT operatives under the command of power-hungry Erdogan, this time round wielding a parliament sword in one hand and a presidential hammer (decree) in the other?

According to the Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), the “people are abducted without even knowing what their crimes are or who exactly has captured them. They appear in court only after months of heavy tortures, if they are lucky to live long enough. Indeed, they can’t see even the faces of their abductors or torturers, much less their lawyers or families.”

This is how far Turkey has come. The country where the vice-president can stand up in parliament and shower praise over transnational secret service offenses against the inherent dignity of the human being and violating human rights to the level of crime against humanity. The country where children of jailed parents on Gulen links are not allowed to stay with their relatives but handed over to a so-called child ‘welfare service’ which ensures that those who come from the same family are placed in separate buildings. Isn’t Turkey under silent state terrorism?

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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