Terror profiteering: Turkey’s little house of horrors

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SHAFAQNA – If Turkey’s links to terror have been splashed over the headlines of late, underscoring Ankara’s shady dealings with Wahhabi-inspired radicals across the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), little still has been written, or said on Turkey’s prophecy to benefit from Terror’s trade.

But as whistleblowers have come forth, exposing those policies and those deals Ankara has been keen to keep under-wrap, Turkey is rising not only an enabler of Terror, but a capitalist of Terror – a trait which could be categorized as a crime against humanity, given the sheer breadth and depth of the horrors it has endorsed in the name of profits.

And though Ankara would like you to believe that its institutions still stand for democracy, social justice, civil liberties and the right to political self-determination, President Recep Erdogan’s overbearing “presidential” policies, his penchant for oppression, and use of military repression against his critics, have long dispelled any doubt observers may have harbored vis a vis Turkey. For all intents and purposes, Turkey has devolved into a police state, an autocracy disguised under the veneer of democracy, so that its officials could still hold those Western friendships without tainting anyone’s public image.

A member of the NATO, Turkey cannot exactly be declared an openly authoritarian regime … at least not as long as Ankara remains a useful player in this thaw in between Western powers and the rising Axis of Resistance [non-aligned countries].

Still, under Turkey’s fast growing list of crimes, the truth nevertheless managed to surface from under layers of political posing and media manipulations. In truth, President Erdogan’s house of cards really began to ply under the weight of its deceit in late November 2015, when its military targeted a Russian jet over Syria – a miscalculation which repercussions are still unraveling.

I would argue that it is at this point in time that Turkey’s shadowy dealings came crashing onto Erdogan’s regime, shining a disturbing light onto an obscenely dark industry – that of terror.

It was Russia which stroke first when its president, Vladimir Putin, stated that Ankara was harboring distasteful friendships with Wahhabi-radical groups to forward his own hegemonic agenda in the Greater Levant.  A president with very Ottomanesque ambitions, Erdogan recognized in the rise of the Black Flag army an opportunity to revive Turkey’s kingdom of old, by reclaiming control over those lands which the French and the British chipped away at the turn of the 20th century when they both redrew the geopolitical map of the Middle East (Sykes-Picot agreement).

Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on November 24th, President Putin slammed Ankara over its support of radical groups in Syria. “Our military men are fighting terrorism, sacrificing their own lives, but today’s loss is  a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorism,” Putin said of Turkey, alleging that Ankara directly finances terrorism through illicit oil sales.

Days later, and after Turkish President Erdogan rejected Russia’s allegations as preposterous, Moscow presented proofs of Ankara’s betrayal.

On December 2sd, in a major briefing on new findings concerning ISIL funding , Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in Moscow that Russia is aware of three main oil smuggling routes to Turkey. “Today, we are presenting only some of the facts that confirm that a whole team of bandits and Turkish elites stealing oil from their neighbors is operating in the region,” Antonov said, adding that this oil “in large quantities” enters the territory of Turkey via “live oil pipelines,” consisting of thousands of oil trucks. “Revenues from the sale of oil are one of the most important sources of activity by terrorists in Syria. They earn around $2 billion annually, spending these funds on hiring militants from around the world and equipping them with weapons, equipment, and arms,” he emphasized, adding, “According to our data, the top political leadership of the country – President Erdogan and his family – is involved in this criminal business,” Antonov said.

Far from making empty “political” accusations, the ministry provided photographs and other data to support their claims.

Withdrawn behind the walls of the United Nations, Western powers offered only silence to Russia’s calls for actions – an interesting choice given the length countries such as the US, Britain and France went to, to defeat terror in recent years. I recall Washington making a case for war in 2003 over vague allegations that Iraq might have acquired weapons of mass destruction.

Before Turkey’s open dealings with terror however, the Allies have kept mum … Confused anyone?

If Erdogan’s illicit oil profiteering is by itself despicable, it does not paint an accurate picture of Turkey’s Terror industry – the rabbit hole runs much deeper.

From the sale of chemical weapons to radicals  to human trafficking and drug trafficking, Turkey has played into the darkest aspects of capitalism, turning  a profit on not just blood but manufactured genocide.

Slavery

In December, the German television station, ARD (Consortium of Public Broadcasters in Germany), produced footage documenting the slave trade being conducted by the ISIL through a liaison office in the province of Gaziantep (also known as Antep) in Turkey, near the border with Syria.

The German TV channels NDR and SWR declared on their website:”ISIL [Daesh] offers women and underage children in a kind of virtual slave market with for-sale photos. … The transfer of money, as the reporter discovered, takes place through a liaison office in Turkey. … For weeks, NDR and SWR accompanied a Yazidi negotiator, who, on behalf of the families, negotiates with the IS for the release of the slaves and their children. … the women are sold in a digital slave market to the highest bidder. 15,000 to 20,000 US dollars are a typical price. Similar sums for ransom are also required to free Yazidis. The money is then transferred via IS-liaison offices and middlemen to the terrorist group.

NDR and SWR were present at the liberation of a woman and her three small children, aged between two and four years old, and followed the negotiations. How many Yazidi slaves are still ‘owned’ by IS is unclear. Experts estimate that there still could be hundreds.”

The negotiator told NDR and SWR that in the course of a year, he transferred more than USD $2.5 million to ISIS from the families of 250 Yazidi women and children, in order to free them.

He also said that to advertise the slaves, ISIS assigns numbers to the female and child slaves, and posts their photographs on the WhatsApp Messenger smartphone app.

In response to these reports, the Gaziantep Bar Association filed a criminal complaint against “Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and law-enforcement officers that have committed neglect of duty and misconduct by not taking required measures, and not carrying out preventive and required intelligence activities before the media covered the said incidents.” The bar association also demanded that the prosecutors start prosecuting and punishing perpetrators engaged in crimes of “human trafficking, prostitution, genocide, deprivation of liberty, crimes against humanity, and migrant smuggling,” according to the Turkish penal code.

“The tragic reality,” said lawyer Bektas Sarkli, the head of Gaziantep Bar Association, “is that Gaziantep is a crowded city; the suicide bombers easily cross [to Syria and Iraq]. Unfortunately, Gaziantep exports terrorism.”

Sarkli added: “When you see the ammunition captured and especially take into account the money transferred here [it is clear that] ISIS easily shelters in this city. Gaziantep is the logistic site of ISIS.”

Despite calls from MPs and other local representatives, Ankara has refused to open an investigation, thus implying complicity.

Mahmut Togrul, an MP of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), in a motion to Efkan Ala, Turkey’s Interior Minister, asked about the alleged office where ISIS members engage in slavery and the sex trade. His questions included: “How many liaison offices affiliated with ISIS terror organization are there in Gaziantep? If there are, do those liaison offices have any legal basis? Under what names do these offices operate? Are those offices affiliated with any institution?”

Interior Minister Ala has not yet provided any answers.

“According to the local press of Gaziantep, as well as the national press,” Togrul said, “Gaziantep has been turned into a city with sleeper cell houses for the ISIS terror group; ISIS members abound and travel freely.”

The “Struggle Platform for Women Forcefully Seized,” the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) and the Kurdish Congress of Free Women (KJA) in Diyarbakir also filed a criminal complaint, calling for the prosecutors to investigate allegations and bring the perpetrators to account.

Reyhan Yalcindag, a prominent Kurdish human rights lawyer, said, “An office has been established by ISIS members in Antep; and at that office, women and children kidnapped by ISIS are sold for high amounts of money. Where are the ministers and law enforcement officers of this county who are talking about stability?”

“Turkey,” she said, “has signed several international treaties, but it is the number one country when it comes to professional non-compliance with human rights treaties.”

Drugs

On December 22sd, Viktor Ivanov, the director of Russia’s Federal Narcotics Control Service said Turkish laboratories have been involved in the processing of Afghan opium into heroin for deliveries to Europe.

Speaking to the press Ivanov confirmed that Russian and Afghan drug police confiscated more than 600 kilograms (over 1,300 pounds) of opium in the province of Baglan in December in a joint operation.

“The cargo traveled along the route of Badakhshan-Doshi-Bamiyan-Herat, then further through Iran and into Turkey, where the opium was processed in well-equipped laboratories … into high quality heroin, and then was to be sent to Europe and Russia,” Ivanov said during an anti-narcotics committee meeting.

“Daesh is receiving between $200 million and $500 million annually from smuggling Afghan heroin into Europe … “According to our figures, the amount of revenue could be from $200 to $500 million annually,” he added.

Here too Turkish officials refrained from any comments.

If Daesh has blotted the skies of the Middle East with its sickening ideology, it is likely Turkey will be remembered as its grand facilitator and most eager partner in crimes.

By Catherine Shakdam  – This article was published first in the American Herald Tribune

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