FDD experts: Erdoğan more concerned about opposition to his power than about Turks’ lives

Assessing the Turkish government’s ostensible struggle against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) the experts of Washington D.C. based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) have reported that Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is more concerned about opposition to his power than about the lives of Turkish citizens.

Jonathan Schanzer

Vocal Europe magazine has posted an exclusive interview with Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President of FDD and Merve Tahiroğlu, a research associate, who have penned a report together with the title of “Islamic State Networks in Turkey.”

The report reveals not only the ISIL networks in Turkey but it also analyses recently radicalized understanding of Islam in Turkey before the ISIL, Ankara’s sectarian foreign policy before the Syrian war, Turkey’s role in Syrian civil war, and as well as presence of the jihadists on social media platforms in Turkey.

Stating that, for years, Ankara allowed jihadists fighting the Bashar al-Assad regime to exploit Turkey’s 550-mile Syrian frontier and establish territorial control in most of northern Syria, Jonathan Schanzer said that the purge of thousands of police officers and dozens of intelligence officials have weakened Turkey’s law enforcement, making the country vulnerable to further attacks by terror groups.

Merve Tahiroğlu

Merve Tahiroğlu, who is a research associate at FDD focusing on Turkey, has also said that “…while ISIL has been cleared off of the Turkish-Syrian border since last year, and Ankara’s efforts to secure the frontier have greatly improved, we remain deeply concerned about the group’s ability to threaten Turkey from within. The ISIL attack on İstanbul’s Reina nightclub on New Year’s Eve was only the latest reminder of that threat. As tragic as the mass-shooting was, it was also unsurprising.”

Stating that ISIL has been exploiting Turkey’s ethnic-nationalist as well as secular-religious divides to recruit both Turkish and Kurdish members, Tahiroğlu remarked that “The coup attempt and the ensuing purges have had major implications for Turkey’s security intelligence services, particularly for the elite units of the military tasked with fighting terror inside and outside of the country. Ankara purged nearly 40 percent of all Turkish generals and replaced them with colonels unqualified for the promotion. This has surely factored in to the difficulties Turkey’s Euphrates Shield forces appeared to have faced in their various missions in Syria.”

Underlining the fact that Turkey’s domestic repression is much more effective than its anti-ISIL measures, Tahiroğlu added that “Consider that 13 members of Turkey’s second largest opposition party HDP are in jail today, along with 148 journalists. This is compared to only 28 ISIL convictions to date. It is clear that Erdoğan is more concerned about opposition to his power than about the lives of Turkish citizens.”

April 13, 2017

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