For years Turkish civil liberties groups, writers, journalists, left-wing and islamic political activists and others have demanded of various governments that they expose the ‘deep state’ that at times of crises operates in conjunction with elements within the government bureaucracy, the armed forces, the police and the judiciary. At various time in recent history, when ever the Turkish government have been about to introduce progressive legislation, for example by making concessions to the Kurdish minority which would enable their democratic rights, the country has been rocked by a wave of bombings and/or politically motivated violence which have destabilized the government of the day.
Many Leftists, academics and political analysts have come to believe the membership of this ‘Deep State’ originated in the cold war period when the US security services and military organized ‘stay behind’ units of paramilitary organizations within most Nato countries, under a program called Operation Gladio. There purpose was to attack and work against the occupying forces of the USSR if the Red Army ever overran western Europe and Turkey. The blow back from such stay behind groups originally came to light in Italy, where a scandal erupted over Operation Gladio when it was thought it had been used to undermine Italian democracy in the 1970s when the Italian Communist Party looked like it might gain a share of power.*
Many people believe the Turkish ‘Deep State’ is linked to this clandestine phenomenon and functions similarly to Operation Gladio. In fact, many analysts believe such networks of groups in Turkey, which are referred to as the “deep state,” are remnants of the Turkish arm of the actual Gladio.
After it became pretty clear the ‘Deep State’ in Turkey was working against the present AK Party government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, he instigated an enquiry into these groups. It came to fruition this week when Erdogan announced the enquiry had resulted in the police arresting dozens of people, including ex senior army officers and lawyers. Only time will tell whether Erdoğan has the determination to flush out the ‘Deep State’ and in the process bring an end the Turkish state being linked to criminal-military gangs.
So far the suspects arrested have not been charged, but most who have knowledge of how the deep state operates agree that the thirty-three people arrested are members of a nationalist group, Ergenekon and are part of a shadowy network that has masterminded many violent attacks in Turkey.
The discovery is not the first of its kind, in the past two years the country’s security forces have unearthed a number of clandestine gangs countrywide. These groups, known to the public by names such as Atabeyler, Sauna and Ümraniye and now Ergenekon, have apparently tried to create chaos in the country at crucial times such as last year’s presidential election. However, despite the fact that all of these organizations were uncovered, with many of their members being publicly named, no significant punishment has yet been imposed on the members of these criminal organizations.
Professor Cengiz Aktar, of İstanbul’s Bahçeşehir University, told Reuters “All democrats in Turkey have been looking forward to this sort of action by the government, Everybody is now hoping something will happen but people remain very suspicious.”
“This is a very important test for the government, they will be judged by this. If these people are guilty and are convicted, it will be very good for Turkish democracy as well as for our efforts to join the European Union.”
Despite İstanbul’s chief prosecutor announcing that earlier bans on reporting about the investigation remained in place, all Turkish newspapers, with the exception of a few ultra-nationalist ones, covered the operation. “Never gone this deep before,” read the newspaper Yeni Şafak’s headline yesterday. “The state takes on the deep state,” Sabah said in one of its headlines. “A deep blow to a deep gang,” said the Star. “Operation against coup supporters,” said Radikal, highlighting the military ties of the group.
The Deep State is also suspected of involvement in a number of violent attacks in recent years, including the killing of an Italian priest in 2006, the assassination a year ago of Armenian political activist and journalist Hrant Dink and the murder of three Christians in the city of Malatya last year.
The suspects were detained in İstanbul and other regions of Turkey in dawn raids on Tuesday, the culmination of an eight-month operation, the police spokesperson said. “The police have been observing the actions of the suspects for over eight months as part of an investigation into a house full of explosives and ammunition found in İstanbul’s Ümraniye district eight months ago.”
Meanwhile, four more people were taken into custody yesterday in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır, as part of the same operation. Among the four, at least two are members of the ultra-nationalist Association for the Union of Patriotic Forces (VKGB), whose leaders are already under arrest facing several charges for crimes ranging from theft, felony, blackmail, and extortion. These arrest’s may be relevant as it is thought some of the recent bombings in Turkey which have been laid at the door of the Kurdish PKK may have been the work of the ‘deep state’.
Amongst the the thirty three people taken into custody are Veli Küçük, a retired major general who is also the alleged founder of an illegal intelligence unit in the Gendarmerie, the existence of which is denied by officials; the controversial ultranationalist lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz, who filed countless suits against Turkish writers and intellectuals like Orhan Pamuk; Fikret Karadağ, a retired army colonel; Güler Kömürcü, a columnist for the leading daily newspaper Akşam ; and Sami Hoştan, a key figure in an investigation launched after a notorious car accident in 1996, in which a senior policeman, a convicted hitman who was a fugitive, a member of Parliament and a well-known gangster were all killed whilst traveling in the same car. Ali Yasak, linked to the figures in the Susurluk car crash was also detained in the operation on Tuesday as was Fuat Turgut, the lawyer of a key suspect in the Hrant Dink murder.
The operation also allegedly revealed that the Ergenekon group was preparing for attacks and assassinations directed at political figures. Documents obtained by the police during the raid confirm that in the past two years the group seriously considered assassinating Osman Baydemir, a leading member of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) who is currently mayor of the mainly Kurdish southeastern province Diyarbakır.
The information for this blog came from Radikal, Zaman and Hurriyet.