Al Qaeda in Turkey

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rahmatollah Fallah


Global network of al Qaeda, which is based on Salafi teachings, has emerged as a new social, ideological and political phenomenon in the Muslim world, especially in the Middle East. Although the ideas and practice of this social current has been faced with serious challenges outside its civilizational areas, various Muslim social classes in Islamic countries have welcomed the idea and provided it with needed grounds to breed. In the Muslim country of Turkey, although most people do not support this current, there are various grounds that may pave the way for al Qaeda to thrive.

This paper will try to study goals, social bases, as well as organizational structure and international relations of al Qaeda in Turkey to reach the conclusion that although there are breeding grounds for al Qaeda in that country, the growing democratic process in Turkish society will undermine any form of fundamentalism, whether it is secular, nationalistic, or Islamic.


Al Qaeda school of thought is based on Salafi roots which made their appearance first in the second century after Hegira when a group of Muslims were willing to go back to their Islamic origins. However, emergence of al Qaeda as a political and military phenomenon in the Middle East, took place after military occupation of Afghanistan by the former Soviet Union. The Arab countries called the war against Russian occupiers as sacred and launched heavy propaganda against the government of Soviet Union and the then government of Afghanistan in addition to providing opposition guerillas with material and military backing.

In addition, a great number of bigoted and religious forces from various Arab countries that considered that war as a sacred jihad went to Afghanistan to fight along the Mujahedeen. The 42,000-strong guerilla force consisted of fundamentalists from Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Yemen and Afghanistan. After the end of the war in Afghanistan, they established a network called al Qaeda in order to expand their activities in other parts of the world [1]. After the leaders of al Qaeda declared jihad against the interests of the United States on August 23, 1996, members of the network were known as the biggest terrorists of the world and were charged with many instances of terrorist activities across the globe.

Al Qaeda, on the other hand, proudly assumed responsibility for most of those operations and justified them in line with its fight against the interests of the United States and Israel. Al Qaeda also carried out a series of terrorist attacks in Muslim Turkey to show that it is also present in that country and can take measures against its secular government when and where needed. For example, al Qaeda exploded bombs at Shishli area (a major trade zone in Istanbul) near Bani Shalum and Beit Israel synagogues as a result of which 23 people were killed and about 100 people were wounded. (The synagogues had also been attacked by armed assailants in 1986, during which 22 people were killed. Similar attacks were repeated in 1992). Five days after suicide attacks against Jewish synagogues in Istanbul and concurrent with George Bush’s visit to Britain (November 20, 2003) al Qaeda bombed the Istanbul branch of HSBC bank as well as the British consulate in the city, killing 27 and seriously wounding 470 people in addition to hundreds of other people who suffered minor injuries.

The High Federal Court in Manhattan, in the United States, presented thousands of documents along with taped phone conversations in addition to affidavits signed by witnesses to charge the network with more than 200 terrorist operations in the world. The most important of those operations included: helping radical elements of the Islamic Jihad in Egypt and Yemen, involvement in an attempt on the life of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995; attacking German tourists in Egypt; bombing American planes in Germany; blasting the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan; planting a bomb at New York trade center in 1993; a plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981; exploding the base of American forces in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; funding an assassination attempt on the life of the American president in Manila in 1994; establishing a major base for training terrorists and creating a 3,000-strong militia force in the Sudan using Arab Afghans from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Sudan, Algeria and Kuwait; purchasing nuclear weapons from former republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; bombing US embassies in Nairobi and Dar al -Salaam; helping guerillas in Tajikistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia, Lebanon, Algeria, and the Philippines to carry out terrorist activities; as well as a number of terrorist operations in Britain and Turkey and other places. However, the most notable operations carried out by al Qaeda network has been terror attacks inside the United States on September 11, 2001.

Responsibility for those attacks was assumed by al Qaeda and an Islamic front called “Islamic Front of Greater East Organization” [2]. Of course, many smaller operations were carried out in other regions of Turkey whose responsibility was assumed by al Qaeda or other organizations which support it.

Therefore, presence of al Qaeda in Turkey cannot be denied, but the question is what are the main goals and motivations of al Qaeda in Turkey? What is the attitude of Turkish people toward al Qaeda? Does al Qaeda have a base among the Turkish masses, society or media? How is the organizational structure and international relations of al Qaeda? And from where it is funded?

To become familiar with some measures taken by al Qaeda or other supporting organizations in Turkey, the following examples would suffice:

1.    Bombing two Jewish synagogues of Bani Shalum and Beit Israel in Istanbul on November 15, 2005: A member of the Islamic Front of Greater East Organization, which was harbinger of al Qaeda in Turkey and trained operatives for al Qaeda, assumed responsibility for the attacks. The same person contacted Anatoly news agency to announce that similar attacks would take place in the future. (Anatoly news agency, November 17, 2003)

2.    Bombing the British consulate and a branch of HSBC Bank of Istanbul: Five days after the suicide attacks on the above synagogues in Istanbul and simultaneous with the controversial visit of US President George W. Bush to Britain on November 20, 2003, a branch of HSBC bank and the British consulate in Istanbul were exploded. Some 27 people were killed in the attacks and 450 were seriously wounded. In addition, hundreds of other people suffered minor injuries. Turkish media called the event “Turkey’s 9/11”. A day later, an anonymous caller contacted Anatoly news agency to assume responsibility for the attacks and announce that the operation had been carried out by al Qaeda and Islamic Front of Greater East Organization. Of course, a few hours after the November 20 attacks, NTV network reported that al Qaeda had assumed responsibility for the suicide attacks in Istanbul. The news network added that a group calling itself “Martyr Abul-Hafiz Misri Battalion”, which was affiliated to al Qaeda, had announced through al-Mujahid website that the suicide attacks in Istanbul had been carried out by their operatives.

3.    A plan to destroy Jewish ships: Al Qaeda had planned to destroy a number of big ships carrying Jews to Antalya in Turkey. However, CIA detected and thwarted the plot before it was carried out.

4.    Plan to blow up the American military base in Incerlik, Turkey: Al Qaeda branch in Turkey had planned to plant bombs at an American military base in Incerlik, but the plan was thwarted by CIA only hours before it was carried out (www.Turkishweekly, Sunday, February 19, 2006).

5.    Issuing a statement to oppose the Papal visit to Turkey: When Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would visit Turkey in late November 2006, al Qaeda branch in Turkey declared its opposition to the visit and put that statement on its website. After Pope arrived in Turkey, al Qaeda operatives in that country were planning terrorist operations, but 10 operatives were nabbed by the Turkish police and the operation was thwarted (Sabah daily newspaper, December 1, 2006).

6.    Staging demonstrations in Turkey: In addition to terrorist operations, al Qaeda elements also embarked on demonstrations in that country, the most important of which occurred after the death of Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. At that time, a number of al Qaeda supporters and advocates of radical Islam demonstrated in a number of Turkish cities. Although the number of participants was limited, but it was a bold measure and received extensive coverage in the Turkish media.

Anyway, al Qaeda has proved its presence in Turkey in various ways. This paper will try to answer the question that “What are the perspectives for al Qaeda operations in Turkey and their consequences?”

1.    Al Qaeda’s motives in Turkey

It follows from statements issued by al Qaeda and confessions by its members that the organization has many reasons and motives to become active in Turkey:

1)    Turkey is a Muslim country and 98.1 percent of its population believes in Islam. Its government, however, is a secular government which opposes Islamic symbols. Al Qaeda maintains that the political model in Turkey has posed serious challenges to the original Islam and even the political Islam in the whole region and the best way to oppose its influence is to create insecurity in the society which is run by secular elements [3].

2)    Al Qaeda maintains that Turkey is the sole Muslim country which has established official and strategic relations with Israel and has given legitimacy to Israeli regime. From the viewpoint of al Qaeda, if this model of relationship proves successful and unchallenging, other Muslim countries may be encouraged to follow suit [4]. Al Zawahiri, a famous leader of al Qaeda, has admitted to goals and motives of al Qaeda in Turkey in one of his taped messages which were aired on Al-Jazeera television. He noted that relationship between the Turkish government and infidels, recognition of Israel, and warm relations with the United States are major instances which have made Turkey a target for attacks from al Qaeda.” [5]

Al Qaeda in Turkey maintains that creating insecurity in Turkish society will force its secular government to withdraw from its position on having relations with Israel.

3)    Strategic relationship between Turkey and the United States against al Qaeda: The organization’s leaders maintain that Turkey has ignored the interests of the Islamic world and has joined hands with the archenemy of Muslims, that is, the United States, to work against al Qaeda and to make it inefficient. They say that cooperation with the United States in attacking Afghanistan, allowing US military to use Incerlik airbase, and most importantly accepting command of NATO forces in Afghanistan (known as International Security Assistance Force - ISAF) are all signs that the secular government of Turkey is cooperating with the West in its crusade against the Muslim world [6]. Therefore, al Qaeda blasted a number of bombs in Ankara, Istanbul, and Izmir when the Turkish parliament was approving a bill to send peacekeeping forces to Iraq. [7]

4)    Preventing accession of Turkey to the European Union: Al Qaeda maintains that membership of Turkey as an important Muslim state in the European Union will cause alienation of Muslims in the heat of Western civilization and culture and, on the other hand, will provide Christian and Jewish missionaries with a good opportunity to work in that country. Therefore, al Qaeda maintains that radicalization of political and social atmosphere in Turkey would prevent the country’s accession to the European Union.

5)    Fighting against domination of the West on Islamic countries: Al Qaeda believes that secular rulers of Turkey have paved the way for domination of the West over the Muslim nation and have preferred goals and interests of Western countries over those of the Muslim nation. Under these conditions, fighting against domination of a Muslim nation by the West is considered a major goal for al Qaeda. [8]

2.    Attitude of Turkish people toward al Qaeda

There are three kinds of attitudes to al Qaeda in Turkey:

1)    The first group of Turkish people maintains that al Qaeda is abusing Muslims and has no advantage for the Muslim nations. According to a poll conducted by the International Strategic Research Organization of Turkey, out of 2,500 respondents in Ankara, Izmir, Adana, and Bursa, 91 percent of them said that al Qaeda was a terrorist organization. [9[

2)    The second group maintains that there is no such organization as al Qaeda and it is simply a code of cooperation between American and Russian intelligence services which aim to suppress original Islamic movements [10]. This mode of thinking is rife among the elite and even among lay people. For example, Mr. Nishe Duzil, a prominent member of Turkey’s intelligence agency (MIT) and a university professor in Ankara, supports this theory. In an interview with Radikal newspaper, he noted that after implosion of the former Soviet Union and failure of political and social models of Communism in the world, the Islamic discourse which was based on ‘emancipation’ was bolstered. That discourse, faced world arrogant powers, especially the West and Russia with a dilemma. Huntington, the American political thinker, warned about the looming danger of a clash between Islamic and Western civilizations before other thinkers while both the West and Russia maintained that a direct confrontation with the Islamic discourse would be dangerous. Therefore, they highlighted al Qaeda in order to create internal challenges to the political discourse of Islam. [11]

In another part of his interview, Duzil has noted that members of al Qaeda are mostly poor Afghans or Pakistanis who simply know a few names and are not aware of intentions, goals, and strategies of their top leaders. Al Qaeda is officially or unofficially funded by the US and Russian intelligence agencies and as long as they have not achieved their goals in Islamic countries, the al Qaeda monster will continue to harass the Muslim world.

Supporters of this viewpoint in Turkey maintain that anytime that Turkey moves against the interests of Western countries, especially the United States in the Middle East, al Qaeda will become active in Turkey to force it take sides with the United States.

3)    The third attitude is advocated by radical Islamist forces, Salafis, Wahhabis, 20,000 members of the outlawed Hezbollah Party and a number of trained al Qaeda operatives in Chechnya and Afghanistan that maintain that al Qaeda is a progressive movement in the world of Islam, which aims to save the Muslim world. They justify measures taken by al Qaeda within the framework of jihad and maintain that saving Islamic countries from secular rulers as well as Christian and Jewish occupiers is the most urgent of religious obligations. [13]

The third attitude is theoretical basis of al Qaeda in Turkey. It would help us to understand how al Qaeda has succeeded to increase its influence in Turkey. Although the third attitude is not supported by a majority in Turkish society, part of traditional structures of Turkish society are apt to play the role of a breeding grounds for it.

3.    Al Qaeda’s base in Turkish masses and society

Social characteristics of al Qaeda members who have been nabbed by Turkish police show that various social classes of Turkish people cooperate with al Qaeda, but their common denominator is their feeling alienation in Turkish society. The popular and social bases of al Qaeda in Turkey will be discussed below.

A)    The outlawed Turkish Hezbollah group

Hezbollah was one of the most influential religious and political groups in Turkey which had more than 20,000 official members in the country. The Turkish intelligence penetrated the group and managed to manipulate it for its own interests for a while. When they felt that the group was gaining power, they nabbed 4,000 members of Hezbollah and outlawed the party [14]. Today, many researchers of Turkey maintain that most members of the Hezbollah are working with al Qaeda and the rest are potential targets for a radical Islamic organization like al Qaeda. Kirgin, a human rights activist in the Kurdish region of Turkey, maintains that “when the dirty war ended, Hezbollah of Turkey resorted to supporting radical Islamic groups in order to survive.” [15] Meanwhile, al Qaeda was more attractive for Hezbollah members than other Islamic groups. In this way, Hezbollah and its members constitute a major social base for al Qaeda in Turkey.

Hurriyat newspaper quoted Aidin Aslan, governor of a southeastern province of Turkey as saying in late 1990 that Hezbollah was as dangerous as the PKK (Kurdish Labor Party). He added that the organization had been divided into Alam, Manzil, and Wasat groups and the first group was involved in terrorist activities. There are three viewpoints about this group. Some maintain that it is an Islamic militia group which fights the secular government in Turkey’s Kurdistan province and the PKK. The group was established by the secular system and its intelligence agency, MIT, in late 1990 as a counterbalance to the PKK and was used by MIT to massacre Kurdish guerillas and some Muslim nationals of Turkey. Finally, it was disbanded when Abdullah Öcalan was arrested and conflicts in Kurdistan abated.

Other analysts maintain that it was a combatant Islamic group which gave priority to fighting Marxist members of the PKK over the secular government and availed of the government’s assistance. However, when the PKK was suppressed, the secular government ruthlessly massacred all its known members and blamed them for all the crimes that the Turkish army and MIT had committed in Kurdistan. In this way, the government both suppressed the PKK and depicted a very negative picture of Muslims and Islamist forces in Turkey. (Mohammad Reza Zare’, Reasons behind Growth of Islamic Groups in Turkey, p. 368)

B)    Poor and jobless suburbia

Although affluent people have sometimes been recognized as members of al Qaeda, its most powerful social base is among the lower social classes and suburbia. Studies on a group of al Qaeda sympathizers have revealed that al Qaeda is received more warmly in less privileged areas.

C)    Kurdish regions

For many decades, the Turkish Kurds have posed a challenge to Turkish nationalism. The Kurdish movement entered its military phase in 1984 and as a result of subsequent clashes between the Turkish army and the PKK guerillas, 34,000 people have died and many Kurdish villages have been destroyed by artillery fire of the Turkish army. Therefore, Kurdish guerillas and al Qaeda have common goals in dealing blows to the secular government of Turkey. For example, two members of al Qaeda who have carried out the most striking terrorist operations in Turkey were former members of Kurdish guerillas. Two days after the bodies of two Kurdish members of al Qaeda who had blown up the Jewish synagogues in Istanbul were buried; two other Kurds slammed their explosive-laden cars into the British consulate and HSBC bank in Istanbul.

Bin Ghizou, an experienced journalist in Istanbul who hails from the poor city of Bingul has noted that “when you are jobless and have no hope of finding a job, you would have to get busy somewhere else. Many youths in this region are disappointed and the sole job that is offered to them in Bingul is smuggling narcotics into Iran.” (Sharq daily newspaper quoting the Guardian, December 6, 2003)

Independent investigations into the lives of the two Kurdish operatives of al Qaeda revealed that both of them had suffered great losses at the hands of the Turkish government. Azad Akinchi, who drove his car into the British consulate, witnessed his father killed by Turkish nationalists when he was 2 years old because he had been a member of the PKK. (Sharq daily newspaper quoting the Guardian, December 6, 2003)

D)    Salafi Muslims and similar groups and sects

Although Salafi teachings have been declared unlawful in Turkey, some religious families are trying to encourage their children learn Salafi teachings. As a result, the idea of establishing a religious government would be conceivable [16]. According to figures released by Turkish police, about 350 Salafi Muslims from Turkey have gone to Afghanistan and been trained by al Qaeda before going back to Turkey to play their role [17].

Emergence of Salafi thought within the framework of Wahhabism in Turkey has paved the way for a struggle (even an armed one) against those “who mislead people and the misled”. Wahhabis and Salafi Muslims have promoted their products thought other groups which sympathize with them. Today, those groups which adhere to Salafi ideology act as a social base of al Qaeda in Turkey.

Although they do not aim to expand al Qaeda in Turkey, since their interests are common with al Qaeda, knowingly or unknowingly, they work as a social breeding grounds for al Qaeda in Turkey. Some of those groups would be explained below [18].

The anti-terrorism section of Jamestown Research Center in the United States has issued a report asserting that some form of complex cooperation exists between al Qaeda and the PKK. The report has noted that al Qaeda has transferred its activities to northern Iraq and targets Turkish and American forces alike. The report also noted that the relationship between al Qaeda and the PKK was discovered accidentally when four PKK terrorists were killed by the American forces and they found out that two terrorist, called Mohammad Yilmaz and Mahmoud Shid Eshak were leaders of al Qaeda in Turkey. Yilmaz was heading a network which transferred people who wanted to join al Qaeda while Eshak carried letters from Yilmaz to other members of the group.

Jamestown Research Center has also noted that Yilmaz was injured when American forces entered Afghanistan in 2001 and was sent to Turkey after apprehension. The Turkish government released him in 2005 when he went to northern Iraq. (ISNA news agency, August 5, 2007; news No. 185021)

-    Jama’at Ibda’ or Ibdaj  (Islamic Front of Greater East Organization)

The group is led by Saleh Mirza Beig Oghlou (nicknamed Izzat Ardish) and is active in Istanbul, Konya, Erzurum, and Mar’ash. They are bigoted Hanafi Sunnis who believe in armed struggle against the secular regime. The group clashed with the government in 1990 and a number of its members were arrested. It has also assumed responsibility for an explosion on November 15, 2003 [19].
The main goals of the group include:

1)    Establishment of an Islamic government based on Sunni Islam and annihilation of the secular government;

2)    Fighting infidels, especially Israel and the United States;

3)    Supporting the cause of world Muslims, especially in Palestine and Iraq [20].
Such print media as Ak Dogas, Karar, Zarf, and Ak Lahar promote their ideas.

-    Jama’at Arab Kindi

The group was established by Sheikh Muhammad Arab Kindi, but is currently led by Mullah Abdulwahhab. Their theoretical basics are common with Wahhabi Muslims and they have powerful ties to Al-Alam Islami in Saudi Arabia and are financially supported by them. The group is mostly engaged in publicity activities and is active in Diyarbakir as well as rural areas of southeast Turkey.

-    Jama’at Asadi Afandi

The group has been founded by Sheikh Asadi Afandi who was killed under Ataturk. At present, its leader is unknown and is mostly active in western cities of Turkey. Their goal is to establish an Islamic government in Turkey and their activities are secret.

-    Jama’at  Bughazichi

Their leader is unknown. The group was founded by former fighters of Iginchilyar group before the coup d’état of 1982. They follow Wahhabi faith, reject intercession from Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his progeny and are opposed to paying pilgrimage to tombs of imams. They are mostly active around Malatya city in Istanbul province as well as Ankara, Gaziantep, and Van cities. They are mostly involved in publicity activities and Bangi Sum publishing house in Istanbul is run by them. The first nucleus of this group took shape at Bughazichi bookshop and its other name is Malatyar Liyar.

-    Jama’at Saf

The group was established by Muhammad Aleptagin and is currently led by Muhammad Chelan, a graduate of Faculty of Divinities. They follow Wahhabi thought and are active throughout Turkey. The group has translated and published Wahhabi books in Turkish including Zinu Saeedi’s Salvation Sect and Yousef Alkaroudi’s Truth of Monotheism. They are very active in promoting Wahhabism and their leaders are famous leaders of Wahhabi school of thought in Turkey.

-    Jama’at Iqtibas

The group was established by Arjmand Uzkan who is introduced by some as a rationalist, but is suspected of having Wahhabi ties. The group is against participation in the political system or parliamentary campaigns and believes in unity of Muslims, popular movements and deliberative Islamic rule. The group cooperates with al-Tahrir Party in Uzbekistan and publishes Iqtibas magazine.

-    Jama’at Pinar

This group splintered from Jama’at Iqtibas and follows Wahhabi faith. Its activities are mostly publicity; political and cultural, Sur and Birshik publications are close to their viewpoints.

-    Jama’at Risala

This is a Wahhabi group and it seems that renowned Wahhabis of Turkey are its members. However, to hide their Wahhabi roots, they cooperate with non-Wahhabi figures like Abdurrahman Didi Pak.

-    Shamil Unity Group

Hassani Oktash and Doran Kadmorjou are leaders of the group. They are prejudiced Sunnis who have ties with Muslim Brotherhood. They are mostly involved in publicity and political activities and their members cooperate with Unity Foundation for distribution of the book, Uman.

-    Islamic Unity Group

The group was founded by Jamaleddin Kaplan who was succeeded by his son, Matin Kaplan. They believe in the government model of Guided Caliphs and also believe in revolutionary activities and armed struggle. The group has some influence in Europe. Al-Abad magazine is published by this group, which is active among Turks living in Germany, especially in Cologne.

4.    Organizational structure and international relations of al Qaeda in Turkey

It goes without saying that al Qaeda is a very complex organization and the structure of al Qaeda in Turkey cannot be recognized easily. What follows is information collected from various news sources.

Organizational structure of al Qaeda in Turkey is composed of independent networks with subgroups. In other words, al Qaeda branches in Turkey are comprised of independent pillars [21]. Some pillars are active on large scale, but others are active on a smaller scale and are known as “local cells”. Of course, local cells can cooperate with national and international organizations if needed [22]. The cooperation is made possible through contacts.

No single person has thus far been named as the leader of Turkish Al Qaeda establishment and some news sources denote that al Qaeda does not follow a certain person in al Qaeda and has its own leaders in every region or city. Coordination among various groups is achieved through leaders of every group [23].

In general, organization structure of al Qaeda in Turkey can be recognized at three levels:

1.    National level: they are active in Turkey with pillars in all parts of the country;
2.    Regional level: they cover certain regions of Turkey like branches of al Qaeda in Istanbul or Anatoly;
3.    Local level: they are also known as local cells, which are active in small areas and, if needed, they will cooperate with international network of al Qaeda [24].

Transnational links between Turkish al Qaeda and its global structure

Some al Qaeda operatives in Turkey are in contact with international network of the organization. Some contacts enjoy this position and are partners to some large-scale decisions made by al Qaeda leaders. Levai Sakra, for example, is a senior al Qaeda operative in Turkey and was one of five leaders of al Qaeda who were aware of the 9/11 terror attacks and had cooperated with their agents [25]. Baqi Bigit was also in charge of foreign communications of al Qaeda in Turkey and conducted a large part of its international communications. He was in constant touch with officials of al Qaeda outside Turkey to provide needed manpower and send it to Turkey for military and terrorist trainings [26].

Transnational behaviors of al Qaeda members in Turkey have strengthened the hypothesis that although al Qaeda is active in Turkey, but it follows the global strategy of the organization.

5.    Financial and economic resources of al Qaeda in Turkey

Activities of al Qaeda in Turkey are funded in many ways. The following ways have been disclosed by Turkish media, security forces, and the police:

-    Financial and nongovernmental foundations of Saudi Arabia are financiers of al Qaeda in Turkey and the world. The Saudi government considers empowerment of Wahhabism as its cultural and strategic support and indirectly backs it. Wahhabi religious foundations established by Saudi Arabia are not active in most Muslim countries and are direct or indirect financial sources for al Qaeda. Al Qaeda groups in Turkey also avail of their support [27].

-    Wahhabis in Pakistan account for a smaller share of financial support for al Qaeda. Their aid is usually taken to Turkey by people who go there to be trained. For example, Ursuz, a Turkish member of al Qaeda has confessed that he has transferred 150,000 dollars from al Qaeda and fundamentalist groups in Pakistan to al Qaeda in Turkey, especially to Habib Aqdash, the leader of Islamic Raiders of the Greater East – Front (IBDA-C) [28].

-    Some groups in Turkey which follow suit with Salafi faith and even some followers of Islamist currents in Turkey offer unofficial financial support for al Qaeda. The apprehension of Jonit Zapsu, economic advisor of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who had credited some money to the account of one of the most famous members of al Qaeda called al-Qadi, has led to speculation in Turkey that al Qaeda funds some of its activities through its elements who have infiltrated in the economic structure of Turkey [29].

-    Charities of Turkey: Some charity associations in Turkey are suspected of funding al Qaeda, especially in Turkey. After years of investigating 34 charity associations, the Turkish police have reached the conclusion that some of those charities have been founded by people close to or supporting al Qaeda [30].

6.    Consequences of al Qaeda activities in Turkey

Activities of al Qaeda in Turkey may have national and regional consequences for the country:

1.    Since most Turks consider al Qaeda a terrorist organization, if it becomes more active in that country, US claims of fighting al Qaeda will be accepted by people of Turkey;
2.    Activities of al Qaeda in Turkey will strengthen secular forces and the Turkish army;
3.    Activities of al Qaeda in Turkey will seriously hamper Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union;
4.    Tourism, which is a major moneymaker for Turkey will be dealt serious blows through al Qaeda;
5.    Kurdish guerillas may gradually use the cover of al Qaeda to attack government’s interests;
6.    If al Qaeda becomes powerful in Turkey, Turkey would join the US front  and NATO for suppressing al Qaeda throughout the world;
7.    Since al Qaeda is funded in part by financial foundations in Saudi Arabia, if al Qaeda and Salafi forces enhanced their activities in Turkey, the relations between Ankara and Riyadh may become tense;

7.    Situation and outlook of al Qaeda in Turkey

At present, al Qaeda is not in a good situation in Turkey. Turkish police has arrested some of their elite and leaders and others are under surveillance. According to police figures, more than 3,000 covert and overt supporters of al Qaeda have been identified in Turkey and are under tangible or intangible surveillance. About 350 of them have been trained in Afghanistan, Chechnya and Pakistan. Therefore, al Qaeda has been effectively kept in check by Turkish police and intelligence. It tries to live under the cover of sympathetic groups. Also, weakening of al Qaeda network in the world has also affected its situation in Turkey. Most importantly is the growing democratic process in Turkey which would crush all forms of fundamentalism. There is no doubt that nationalistic, secular, and Islamic forms of fundamentalism are fading under a democratic and modern system of government.

Of course, this does not mean that al Qaeda cannot grow in Turkey, but there are still suitable grounds for its growth in that country. Poverty, suburbanization, ethnic failures, as well as existence of bigoted Sunni groups (about 14 groups) are good breeding grounds for al Qaeda. However, it seems that Turkey is loyal to its moderate Islamic identity and is not interested in racialism and fundamentalism in any form.

1.    Ali Kazemi, “Terrorist Network of al Qaeda: Black Propaganda, a New Challenge to National Security of Iran”, Negah monthly, 4th year, No. 35, June 2004, pp. 40-41
2.    Daily Express, November 21, 2003
3., Sayi, No. 307, Temmal 2004
7.    Diplomatic Iran newspaper, “Terrorists Become Strategists”, July 16, 2005
8.    See: I7954
9.    Mehr news agency quoting Washington Times, August 13, 2005
10.    See: Nishe Duzil, an old member of Turkey intelligence agency and university professor, in an interview with Radikal newspaper, August 1, 2005
11.    Radikal, August 1, 2005
12.    See: Nishe Duzil, an old member of Turkey intelligence agency and university professor, in an interview with Radikal newspaper, op. cit.; also see: Zaman newspaper, “Does a Secret Organization Called al Qaeda Exist?” August 14, 2005
14. (2003/4/16)
15.    See: Sharq newspaper: “How Turkish Hezbollah Opposed Government?” November 26, 2003, p. 8, quoting the Guardian
16.    See: an interview with Dr. Daqou Irqad, professor of “Political Behavior” at Ankara Faculty of Political Sconces by Radikal newspaper, May 31, 2005. He is member of 12-member committee established by NATO to investigate terrorism.
18.    For more information about these groups see: Information Center of Islamic Culture and Communications Organization as well as Mohammad Reza Zare’ei, Reasons behind Growth of Islamic Groups in Turkey, Andishe Sazan Nour Research Institute, 2004
19.    Anatoly news agency, November 17, 2003
20.    IRNA news agency, December 9, 2006
22.    Ibid
23.    Information on al Qaeda in Turkey, which has been collected from Turkish newspapers in 2004, is available on Google website under the title “Heylul 2004 Sall Gunlu Gazetelerden”.
24.    See: Ettelaat newspaper, New Generation of al Qaeda, December 6, 2003
25.    Aftab News, August 27, 2005, at:
26.    Hamshahri newspaper, February 3, 2004
27.    Radikal newspaper, May 30, 2004
28.    See: Al Qaeda Invasion of Turkey, as well as search result in Turkish Google under the title “Elkaide nm Tarkiye Hatresinden. 14 Eyal 2004”.
29.     www.CNN (2005/6/28)
30.    For more information on charities in Turkey and police investigations see:, 2006/07/08

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