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HomeHeadlineThe Sinan Ateş Case: Fueling Right-Wing Aggression Towards Syrian Refugees in Turkey

The Sinan Ateş Case: Fueling Right-Wing Aggression Towards Syrian Refugees in Turkey

The disturbing rise in violence against Syrian refugees in Turkey by right-wing groups has taken a new and alarming turn. At the heart of this upsurge lies the Sinan Ateş case, a complex and contentious issue that has not only stirred the political landscape but has also exacerbated societal tensions. The case has particularly affected the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), leading to a climate where MHP leadership feels persecuted and responds targeting vulnerable populations, such as Syrian refugees.

On December 30, 2022, Sinan Ateş, one of the leading figure in the Nationalist Movement Party(MHP) lost his life in an armed attack in the Kızılırmak Neighborhood of the Çukurambar district in Çankaya.The Erdoğan government believed that the MHP leadership was involved in the murder and wanted to use it as a bargaining chip in political negotiations with the MHP leadership

A total of 39 people were processed in relation to Ateş’s death. An indictment was prepared for 22 of them, who were in custody, and a case was opened. The investigation for the other 17, who were banned from leaving the country, was decided to continue under a separate file.

The indictment prepared by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office demanded prison sentences for 22 defendants on various charges in connection with the Ateş murder investigation.

Eray Özyağcı, Vedat Balkaya, and Suat Kurt are accused of being joint perpetrators; Doğukan Çep and Tolgahan Demirbaş are accused of inciting the crime; Zekeriya Asarkaya, Hakan Saraç, Ufuk Köktürk, Mehmet Yüce, Mustafa Uzunlar, Aşkın Mert Gelenbey, Murat Can Çolak, Osman Bayraktar, Caner Güney, Umut Ersoy, Çağlar Zorlu, Aytaç Ataç, Emre Yüksel, Serdar Öktem, Erdem Karadeniz, Alper Atay, and Mustafa Ensar Aykal are charged with aiding the crime.

What do we know about the Sinan Ateş murder?

Among those arrested in connection with the investigation are special operations police officers Muratcan Çolak and Mert Gelenbey, who brought the shooter from Istanbul to Ankara.

Additionally, Emre Yüksel, Deputy Chairman of the Ülkü Ocakları (Idealist Clubs), Tolgahan Demirbaş, MHP Istanbul Provincial Administrator Ufuk Köktürk, and MHP Lawyer Serdar Öktem, who are accused of organizing and helping the shooter escape after the murder, are also in prison.

Messages deleted by Demirbaş, who is alleged to have helped the shooter escape, were recovered, revealing a surveillance operation going back nine months. The messages include Ahmet Yiğit Yıldırım, Chairman of the Ülkü Ocakları.

According to the data recovered from Demirbaş’s phone, Yıldırım asked for Ateş’s location from Demirbaş before the murder. He received this information from Çağlar Zorlu, who is alleged to be a former MIT member.

One of the people from whom Demirbaş received information about Ateş is someone named S.Y.

According to the messages, on April 7, 2022, Demirbaş asked S.Y. for an address by sending a screenshot containing the identity number of Ateş’s wife. The next day, S.Y. sent Demirbaş the home address of Ayşe Ateş in Ankara Yenimahalle, which is thought to have been obtained through an acquaintance.

MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli stated that they wanted to cast a shadow on MHP regarding Ateş’s murder, saying, “Enemies of MHP are distorting the issue from its real course.”

Speaking at his party’s parliamentary group meeting, Bahçeli used the expression, “Our silence is due to our nobility,” regarding his long silence on the murder.

The absence of any condolence message from MHP and Ülkü Ocakları after Ateş’s assassination was criticized.

In 2019, Ateş sided with the MHP administration during the founding process of the İYİ Party and criticized those who left the party. In 2020, he resigned from his position as chairman at Bahçeli’s request.

Conclusion: The violent attacks against Syrian refugees in Turkey began shortly after the Sinan Ateş case emerged, suggesting a direct connection between the heightened political tensions between Erdogan and Devlet Bahceli and the surge in xenophobic aggression.

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