Most people in the West are blissfully unaware of what is going on in Turkey, a NATO ally, though some are shocked when they see stories about Kurds – who are the frontline against ISIS – being attacked, jailed or killed by Turkish police and paramilitaries. But those who know Turkey’s history and its dark secrets are not surprised when these atrocities happen – they have been happening for decades – against Kurds, progressives and anyone who challenges the corrupt establishment that forms successive Turkish governments. One of Turkey’s darker secrets is what has been described as its ‘deep state’ – a clandestine, extra-legal network of, basically, assassins, whose origins go back to post World War Two, NATO-backed ‘Gladio’ days and whose aim, ultimately, is to see a revived Ottomon Empire, the decimation of Kurds and of anyone else who gets in the way. JITEM is the main strand of this ‘deep state’: a secret organisation of spycops – members of which were exposed in the wake of the Cizre trial (see below for names/codenames) – and which is now suspected of being behind the recent executions of Kurds and their leaders (politicians, lawyers, activists, etc). Then there is Ergenekon – another powerful network, with its own agenda and modus operandi (see below for more). But providing Turkey stems the flow of refugees and acts as a bulwark to ISIS (with which it is aligned) then NATO will turn a blind eye to this dirty war that much of the world’s media is equally ignoring.
Note… Nothing is quite what it seems in Turkey. JITEM, for example, is simultaneously a legal entity, though its activities are often criminalised (when its agents are caught, that is). Similarly, Ergenekon is made up of establishment figures, but attacks state and anti-state forces alike. To the outsider, this would seem confusing; to a Turk, this – like the corruption openly practised at all levels of government – is business as usual. The ‘rationale’ of the state is simple: nurture the conditions for instability so that government can be seen as a stabilising factor. Let’s examine this in more detail…
JİTEM was made a legal entity through Article 5 of the Law 2803 on the Establishment, Duties and Jurisdiction of Gendarmerie and Article 4 of the Law Concerning the Transfer of Our Borders, Coasts and Territorial Waters’ Protection and Anti-Smuggling Activities to the Ministry of Internal Affairs No. 6815. The gendarmerie intelligence finally gained legal status with the Law Concerning Amendments to Some Laws No. 5397, accepted on 3 July 2005, effective since 23 July 2005, thus becoming the Gendarmerie Intelligence Department within the General Command of Gendarmerie.
But there is another view of JITEM – namely, that it is one – albeit the main – strand of the Turkish ‘deep state’. Its prime function is to execute Kurdish PKK members in particular and Kurdish activists in general.
In the past JITEM has made use of informers to kill PKK members, raid villages in guerilla dressing, detain, torture or make people “disappear”. The Human Rights Association estimates that between 1989 and 2008 JİTEM was involved in 5000 unsolved killings of journalists, human rights defenders, intellectuals and political activists and was responsible for 1,500 cases of “disappearances”. It has also been estimated that JİTEM is responsible for more than 1,500 disappearances in custody and more than 5,000 murders during the 1990s alone. In short, JITEM are the Turkish spycops licensed to kill.
JITEM is organised as cells, with each cell completely independent – just as terrorist cells are organised. JITEM cells are found in every city in Turkey. Its higher echelons – the order-givers – include senior officers of the military and the gendarmerie, politicians, government ministers, as well as former activists of the fascist Grey Wolves.
But JITEM cannot boast complete immunity and occasionally its agents get caught. Last year several members of JITEM were committed to trial, concerning the matter of 21 missing persons, who had been taken into custody, as well as victims of a number of unsolved murders. The murders and disappearances took place in the Kurdish town of Cizre, between 1993 and 1995. It was during the mid-1990s that an intelligence/assassination group – a JITEM cell – was formed by the Commander of the Police of the city of Cizre – Cemal Temizöz. This “counter-terrorist group”, as it styled itself, was basically responsible for the torture and killing of at least 20 people suspected of helping Kurdish PKK rebels or for other reasons.
Members of this group included:
- Bedran/Şahin (codename, Adem Yakin)
- Ferit (codename, Fırat Aydın)
- Tayfur (codename, Hıdır Altuğ).
- Yavuz Güneş (spycop – false name)
- Selim Hoca (spycop – false name)
- Cabbar (spycop – false name)
- Tuna (spycop- false name)
The gendarmerie commanders of Cizre at the time of the murders – Colonel Cemal Temizöz, Kamil Atağ, Kukel Atağ, Temer Atağ, Adem Yakin, Abdulhakim Güven, Hıdır Altuğ and Burhanettin Kiyak – were also accused of being involved in these crimes and subsequently prosecuted. In June 2015 the Prosecutor in charge of the case asked for the release of Temimöz, by then retired from the Gendarmerie, as well as all the other defendants. After hearing 48 dispositions the Prosecutor argued that “the statements of the witnesses and the results of the investigation proved nothing precisely, conscientiously and credibly.”
His request for all charges to be dropped was met.
Needless to say, for many, particularly Kurds, the outcome of the trial proved beyond doubt that JITEM really is immune and, in effect, the trial outcome gave a green light to further kidnappings and murders – which we are seeing now.
Many also believe JITEM is actually the military wing of Ergenekon – see next section for more…
Ergenekon is the other strand of Turkey’s ‘deep state’. It is a clandestine network, made up of former and active military officers, journalists, academics, politicians and mafia leaders. However, its roots go back decades and its loyalty is not to a particular party in government – rather, it sees itself as custodian of Turkish imperial interests and, consequently, will do anything to further those interests.
(Ergenekon is also believed to have been part of the Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatı that operated in North Cyprus and whose aim was to combat Greek EOKA and force through partition.)
But non-allegiance can be a double-edged sword and so it was no surprise that in recent years, in particular, Ergenekon has been simultaneously encouraged in its activities and attacked by the government. In August 2013 several Ergenekon members were convicted of attempting to overthrow the ruling AK Party. The Government’s aim in prosecuting Ergenekon was to demonstrate its ‘moderate’ stance, likening Ergenekon to the PKK.
In the end, however, many of those who were convicted were freed after it was argued by the defence that the main evidence against the accused had been manufacted by the Government. Ergenekon was bloodied, but not bowed.
See Appendix (below) for a timeline of Ergenekon activities over a 16 year period.
C. Atrocities against Kurds & pro-Kurds
Many Kurds believe that the executions carried out in recent weeks were by undercover agents – specifically, JITEM. Indeed, the executions bear all the hallmarks of JITEM, which is a classic plausible denial agency.
These recent atrocities against Kurds in Turkey are far too numerous to detail here, so only a glimpse can be afforded…
Currently the Turkish Gendarmeries are laying siege to the following Kurdish cities: Sur (52 days), Cizre (40 days) and Silopi (40 days). Over 100 towns and villages in Kurdish areas of Turkey are also under curfew conditions. The Turks are using aerial bombardment, sniper fire, artillery fire, tanks, helicopters and thousands of soldiers against the Kurds – for details, see “Turkey’s Murderous Assault on Kurds”.
In June last year a group of socialist students were killed by a bomb in Suruc. The bomb was blamed on ISIS. Whether it was ISIS or another anti-left terror group that undertook the bombing has never fully been proven, though it was interesting – predictable – that Erdogan used the bombing to attack the Kurdish PKK. More…
In September there were numerous attacks by ‘unknown forces’ on pro-Kurdish HDP offices. Members of the Grey Wolves were seen taking part. The attacks occurred after the Kurdish PKK allegedly killed 15 soldiers (some suspected pro-Erdogan forces of doing this to provoke a backlash). More on this… See also…
In the course of ground research, following a curfew in Cizre from 4 – 12 September
2015, Amnesty International found evidence that several deaths may have been caused by snipers at locations far from where clashes were taking place. Among those killed were children, women and elderly people… More recently, reported deaths have also followed this same troubling pattern. More…
In Farqin (Silvan) during the 12 day curfew in November, armed special forces police – the Özel Harekat – wearing balaclavas, terrorised the city, whilst military tanks fired from the surrounding hills. The Özel Harekat used M32 multiple grenade launchers on civilians. Snipers shot at people from rooftops. People said that the snipers came to houses, broke down the doors and forced people to leave, so that they could shoot from their buildings. Many believed the snipers were members of JITEM. Helicopters circled in the sky and were used to fire on people. Meanwhile, people who lived outside of the barricades in the town were bombarded with tear gas and water cannons. More…
Last November a prominent lawyer and human rights defender was killed in an attack in south-east Turkey. Tahir Elci was shot while he and other lawyers were making a press statement. ‘Unknown forces’ were blamed. President Erdogan exploited the attack by ordering a clampdown in the area. Locals suspected ‘deep state’ agents for the assassination. More…
Appendix: Ergenekon activities 1997 – 2013 (courtesy of Al Jazeera):
|1997 – 2007|
1997: The name “Ergenekon” was first used in reference to the “deep state”.
2001: The first official document related to Ergenekon was found. Tuncay Guney, an eccentric character of dubious credentials, was brought in on ordinary fraud charges and told Istanbul police about Ergenekon. His questioning formed the basis of the first Ergenekon indictment.
January 18, 2007: Armenian human rights journalist Hrant Dink was shot dead in front of the offices of his newspaper Agos. The Government blamed ‘unknown terrorist forces’ and shed crocodile tears.
March 25, 2007: Nokta, a political magazine, published the Coup Diaries, chronicling plans to stage a military takeover. The magazine was shut down almost a month later. The diaries formed the basis of the second Ergenekon indictment (see below).
April 18, 2007: Three Christians were killed in an attack at a publishing house in Malatya. The case was later merged with the the Ergenekon case on November 21, 2008.
June 12, 2007: After a tip-off, police discovered and confiscated 27 hand grenades and TNT moulds in a shantytown of Istanbul’s Umraniye district. The subsequent investigations led the prosecutors to unfold a series of coup plots against the government.
January 21: Thirty-one people were arrested following the first Ergenekon indictment including a retired general and columnist.
March 21: More generals and columnists were detained.
July 7: Some previously detained retired generals were arrested.
July 23: A new wave of arrests in the investigation led to 26 people detained around the country, including senior members of the Workers’ Party and staff members of a nationalist magazine.
July 25: After the submission of the indictment to the court the trial period officially began.
August 14: In another round of arrests, police found large amounts of explosives and weapons (two Kalashnikovs, 1,000 bullets, 1,000 empty bullets and 280 hand grenades).
September 23: Sixteen more people were detained, including a former police chief, a former mayor and journalists.
October 20: The first Ergenekon trial began.
January 7, 8: More people were detained, including academics and generals, and more arms caches were unearthed at various places.
January 22: More than 20 police officers were detained in connection to Ergenekon.
March 10: The second Ergenekon indictment was submitted. It was accepted by the court on March 22.
June 4: Army officers were arrested as part of an investigation into the ammunition found in Poyrazkoy, Istanbul. Twenty people, including 16 army officers on active duty, were detained in simultaneous operations, conducted in five Turkish provinces.
July 20: The Istanbul Criminal Court began trying 56 suspects under the second indictment of the Ergenekon probe. The 1,909-page indictment consisted of accusations against 56 suspects, including retired generals.
The third indictment was submitted to the court. The 1,454 page document indicted 52 people – 37 of whom were under arrest. The suspects were arrested between January 10, 2009 and April 17, 2009.
November 19: The ‘Cage’ (Kafes) coup plan was revealed by the daily newspaper, Taraf.
January 20: The Sledgehammer, or Balyoz, coup plot was revealed to the public through Taraf.
February 22: About 50 retired and active duty military officials were detained because of their alleged involvement with the Sledgehammer plot.
March 4: Police detained 10 people, mostly journalists, as part of an investigation into Ergenekon.
May 5: A case filed against a plot to assassinate the Istanbul-based leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians was merged with the Ergenekon case.
July 30: Turkey’s top military leaders quit. The mass retirement notices came hours after a court charged 22 suspects, including several generals and officers, with carrying out an internet campaign to undermine the government.
September 19: A Turkish prosecutor, conducting the investigation into the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, said that the murder was committed by Ergenekon’s cell in the Black Sea province of Trabzon.
January 5: Turkey’s former Chief of Army Staff, Ilker Basbug, was called to court over allegations of his involvement in the creation of websites to discredit Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, and the governing Justice and Development Party.
January 6: The Court ordered Ilker Basbug to be remanded in custody over charges of attempting to overthrow the government.
March 26: Ilker Basbug goes on trial on charges of “leading a terrorist group”, accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Erdogan.
August 5: A Turkish court announced verdicts on nearly 300 defendants in the Ergenekon case. Ilker Basbug was sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the government. The judges also sentenced three serving parliamentarians from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to between 12 and 35 years in prison. 21 defendants were acquitted. Protests erupted as the judgement were handed down.
- Ergenkon and Sledgehammer: building or undermining the rule of law,
- Former deputy Uras: Erdoğan struck deal with Ergenekon against Gülen movement,
- Between Fact and Fantasy: Turkey’s Ergenekon Investigation
- Turkish state fascism and the Kurdish revolution