Turkey’s Overflowing Influence: Religious Freedom Impact | Part 2

By Claire Evans
Hagia Sophia in Turkey
Hagia Sophia, once a grand cathedral and center for Eastern Christianity, was transformed into a mosque last year by the Turkish authorities.

In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.

08/24/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)The 2016 coup attempt in Turkey ushered the nation into a new chapter, one which includes a significant emphasis on foreign policy and military expansionism. Countries previously part of Turkey’s former Ottoman Empire, and countries with a significant Muslim population, are specifically targeted. The unique religious freedom concerns that were once contained within the boundaries of Turkey’s borders are now found wherever Turkey has gained influence. Equally concerning is how Turkey has leveraged those religious freedom issues of neighboring countries for Turkey’s own benefit, at the expense of the local population.

In short, Turkey’s military expansionism has had the impact of exploiting people, exporting persecution, and enabling the perpetrators to commit even more egregious actions. If this is how Turkey treats vulnerable communities outside of its own borders, then how much more so within.

It is also worth noting that much of the media produced by Turkey’s humanitarian and military partners often includes Grey Wolf symbolism, particularly the salute. An extremist movement connected with the MHP party and youth cultural centers, the Grey Wolves are well-known for violently targeting ethnic-religious minorities and have been involved through many of most egregious violations of religious freedom.

Exporting Persecution

SADAT is an international defense consultancy incorporated in 2012 with the mission “to establish a Defense Collaboration and Defense Industry Cooperation among Islamic Countries to help the Islamic World take the place where it merits among Superpowers by providing Strategic Consultancy, Defense and Security Training and Supply Services to Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces of Islamic Countries.”

It is the only privately owned defense consulting firm in Turkey, and its logo indicates that its operational area is the Islamic world. SADAT’s founder Adnan Tanriverdi was previously forced out of the TSK during the late 90s because of his political Islamic positions. However, he was nominated as President Erdogan’s top military advisor after the failed 2016 coup. During his tenure, he successfully ended the secularist education of the TSK and replaced it with a National Defense University who recruited from Imam Hatip schools. He was resigned in December 2019 after commenting at the International Islamic Union Congress, “Will Islam ever unite? Yes. How will it happen? When the Mahdi arrives. When does the Mahdi arrive? Only God knows. So, do we not have a duty? Should we not prepare the conditions for the Mahdi’s arrival? This is precisely what we are doing.”

Media outlet Yeni Akit allows SADAT’s Chairman to further explain, “So, why are Islamic countries in disarray? Shouldn’t Islamic countries also establish unity? It is naturally necessary. And if this is not established, the problems we experience in the regions of Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya are entirely due to the lack of unity. The solution to all problems is the unity of Islamic countries.”

Multiple government institutions have cited Turkey as being a major transit and financial hub for terrorists. Documentation is also increasing about Turkey’s support of terrorists abroad. However, SADAT’s role in this is only just beginning to be understood. While some observers had noted SADAT activities before 2020, the religious freedom implications became extremely apparent during the 44-Day War in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The UN reported that, “According to ‘Kommersant’ news agency, the recruitment of FTFs is being conducted in Ankara-controlled territories in the north and northwest of Syria by employees of the private military company SADAT with the assistance of field commanders of the Syrian National Army (SNA). The main recruiting points allegedly operate in the cities of Afrin, Al-Bab, Ras al-Ain, and Tel Abyad. The FTFs, with the help of Turkish transport companies, are transported to the city of Sanliurfa (Turkey), 40 km from the border with Syria.”

“Further, the mercenaries a retransferred to the conflict zone by SADAT charter flights. It is noteworthy that the head of SADAT company is Adnan Tanriverdi, the former chief military aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to some sources, this company is fully funded and supported by the Turkish government.”  

SADAT’s name again resurfaced in Turkey’s next regional ambition: Afghanistan. The Institute for the Study of War stated in a July publication, “Turkish private military company SADAT will likely lead the recruitment and transfer of Syrian mercenaries to Afghanistan in line with its past responsibilities in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. SADAT is a Turkish private security company founded by close Erdogan ally and retired Brigadier General Adnan Tanriverdi. SADAT has drawn domestic and international criticism for its reported role in training Islamist militias in Syria.”

It has increasingly become clear that wherever SADAT is active, terrorism thrives. And where terrorism thrives, religious freedom suffers.

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