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Monday, March 20, 2017
Should Turkey Officially Designate ISIS a Terrorist Organization?, by Uzay Bulut 

Should Turkey Officially Designate ISIS a Terrorist Organization?
By Uzay Bulut
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 429, March 20, 2017

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Turkey – notwithstanding its official denials – has shown
itself extremely reluctant to designate the Islamic State (ISIS) a terrorist
organization, and that reluctance has hampered efforts to bring ISIS
suspects to justice. Ankara has frozen the assets of ISIS but continues to
stop short of officially labeling it a terrorist group. In view of the fact
that ISIS has used Turkish territory as a transit route into Syria and Iraq
and has placed sleeper cells in dozens of Turkish cities, Ankara would be
well advised to designate the group a terrorist organization.

Between the years 2011 and 2016, Turkey took 7,015 people into police
custody on charges of suspected ties to the Islamic State (ISIS). Of that
total, only seven were convicted and jailed.

This was made public in January 2017, when Bekir Bozdag, the Turkish justice
minister, responded to a motion presented by Sezgin Tanrikulu, an MP from
the Republican People’s Party (CHP), in the Turkish parliament, in which he
was asked how many ISIS convicts there were in Turkish prisons.

It appears that the lack of a definitive listing of ISIS as a terror
organization by Turkish state institutions has complicated efforts to bring
ISIS suspects to justice. For example, in 2015, a local court in Turkey
sentenced an Egyptian ISIS member to jail. The 16th penal chamber of the
Supreme Court reversed the judgment and asked the local court “to research
whether ISIS is an armed terrorist organization.”

The Turkish Directorate-General of Security has published lists of “wanted
terrorists” on its official website. The “red” list includes the names of 41
people, including three ISIS terrorists. Ilhami Bali, Mustafa Dokumaci, and
Yunus Durmaz are, according to the website, members of the “terror
organization Daesh,” the Arabic acronym of ISIS. The “blue,” “green,”
“orange,” and “gray” lists also contain the names of Daesh members.

According to the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, the 2015 draft of the “National
Security Policy Document” by Turkey’s National Security Council (MGK) called
ISIS a “terror organization that abuses religion.” In public speeches,
Turkish government authorities now refer to ISIS as a “terror organization.”
However, this has not always been the case.

In August 2014, Turkish former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, then foreign
minister, attempted to excuse the creation and escalation of ISIS by
fabricating a context for its actions. "If Sunni Arabs had not been left
out, there would not be such an accumulation of anger," he stated on Turkish
TV. "The organization that we call ISIS might look like a radical,
terrorizing organization. But among its ?participants, Turkmens constitute
the majority. There are also Sunni Arabs and Kurds … ?discontent, anger,
isolation and insults suddenly created a great reaction on a large scale. If
Sunni Arabs ?had not been left out in Iraq, there would not be such an
accumulation of anger now.”

In September 2014, Tanrikulu said that Davutoglu, then prime minister, and
Bulent Arinc, then deputy prime minister, had claimed that Turkey declared
ISIS a terrorist organization in October 2013 in a circular issued by the
Council of Ministers. Tanrikulu challenged Davutoglu’s claim in another
parliamentary motion, saying in part: “When one investigates all of the
editions of the official gazette of the Turkish government in October of
2013, one sees that ISIS was never declared a terror organization. What is
the full text of the circular in which the Council of Ministers openly
declared ISIS a terror organization?” Tanrikulu also asked the
Directorate-General of Security in July 2016 whether the Turkish police
define ISIS as a terrorist group, and whether it is included on the police’s
list of terrorist organizations.

In response to all this, Tanrikulu was sent the seventh article of the
Turkish legislation on the right to information, which reads: “The
institutions and agencies may turn down applications for any information or
document that require separate or special work, research, examination, or

“The Directorate-General of Security could have given us a very clear answer
but it did not,” Tanrikulu said. “This could have two meanings. One is that
the police really do not have a list of terror groups and members, which
would be a scandalous acceptance of the security gap that many claim to be
the cause of the massacres committed by ISIS terrorists in recent years.
Another possibility is that the police have a list but are not sharing it
with the public. If so, then they are hiding something.”

The Turkish Ministry of Finance published a circular in the official Turkish
government gazette in 2014 about freezing the assets of certain individuals
associated with al-Qaeda, based on UN Security Council resolutions that
declared that states were required to freeze the assets of individuals
associated with that organization. In 2015, Tanrikulu said it was this
document that government officials presented to him when he asked in
parliament whether the government viewed ISIS as a terror organization. “So
I have been told that based on this document, Turkey deals with ISIS ...
ISIS must be defined as a terrorist organization in accordance with the
Turkish penal code and terrorism law in order to start proceedings against
its members,” Tanrikulu said. “The Directorate-General of Security should
define ISIS as a terror organization, prepare a diagram of its organization
and record all its activities. But it has not.”

In 2015, Bekir Bozdag, the justice minister, repeated the same contention of
the Turkish government: “Turkey declared ISIS a terror organization in
September 2013, and the related circular was published in the official
gazette on October 30, 2013.”

Bozdag proclaimed on his Twitter account: “The first country/government that
declared ISIS a terror organization in the world is Turkey/the Turkish
government. The statements of the president, prime minister and ministers
are clear.”

Davutoglu and Bozdag’s statements were actually not about Ankara’s listing
ISIS as a terror organization. They referred to a circular of the Turkish
Council of Ministers issued on October 30, 2013, based on the UN Security
Council decision pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1988 (2011) and 1989
(2011) concerning the freezing of financial assets or economic resources of
designated individuals, entities and organization. The resolution has an
appendix that contains a 133-page list of individuals, entities, and
organizations whose financial assets shall be frozen.

The list also contains a subheading, “al-Qaeda affiliated individuals,
entities and organizations,” which includes “al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Under this
subheading, the other names of the organization are listed, which include
but are not limited to the al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and
the Levant.

Ali Riza Aydin, the former reporter of Turkey’s Supreme Court, told the
weekly Turkish newspaper Sol that the resolution concerning the freezing of
the financial assets does not mean the group has been declared a terror

“This is an economic precaution. If, for example, I have debt to Turkey’s
social security institution, the government can freeze my financial assets,
too. Moreover, organizations such as IS are not legal entities, so freezing
the financial assets does not have a legal meaning either.”

The newspaper Sol clarified: “In other words, it could be said that Turkey
declared that it sees IS and the al-Nusra Front as ‘terror organizations’ on
paper in October of 2013 in accordance with the UN Security Council
resolutions. But this has no political meaning. Nor does it mean anything in
practice … if IS and al-Qaeda do not have bank accounts and companies and so
on under their names in Turkey.”

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the CHP, asked the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AKP) government at a workshop in Ankara in July 2016 a)
whether it is true that people from 70 cities across Turkey have joined
ISIS; and b) whether the National Security Council (MGK) has in fact
designated ISIS as a terrorist organization. The government has not yet
responded. Kilicdaroglu added that the motions presented by opposition MPs
in parliament regarding ISIS are rejected by the government because “there
is ideological affinity between ISIS and the AKP.”

It is a well-documented fact that ISIS members have used Turkish territory
to cross into Syria and Iraq. ISIS has never been a “foreign” issue to
Turkey. According to some reports, ISIS members have been treated at Turkish
hospitals. According to a 2015 “confidential” note by a Turkish chief of
police, there are ISIS sleeper cells in seventy cities across Turkey. ISIS
is both within and without Turkey’s immediate borders.

Given these facts, one wonders what has stopped NATO member Turkey from
officially declaring ISIS a terrorist organization and taking serious action
against it.
Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist. She covers Turkish politics, political
Islam, and religious minorities in Turkey and the Middle East.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the
Greg Rosshandler Family

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