Friday, 21 November 2014



The Turkmen region in Iraq ‘TURKMENELI’ (indicated in blue on the map) in 1921,  before the ethnic cleansing, land grabbing and demographic changes which have taken place since then.

In Iraq the Turkmens are around 3 million (population of Iraq: est. 33 million). Turkmens are the third largest ethnic component in Iraq, their first recorded existence as ‘Turks’ in Iraq was in 632 AD.
The Turkmens are a Turkic people, they are the descendants of the Turkish OĞUZ tribes originating in Central Asia. They arrived in Iraq (Mesopotamia) in successive waves and settled there 1.400 years ago. They built principalities/states (Atabegs) and ruled over several regions in Iraq, Syria and Iran for several centuries. Turkmen communities rose to prominence as administrators, merchants and politicians during the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad and under the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish era began in the Middle East in 1055 when the Caliph of Baghdad declared the Seljuk commander Tughrul Beg as a “Sultan”.

In Iraq the Turkmens established 6 states: The Seljuks, the Atabegs of Mosul, Erbil and Kirkuk, the Ilkhans, the Jalairids, the Qara Qoyunlu, the Aq Qoyunlu, they ruled Iraq during 453 years.
The Turkmen region in Iraq, called TURKMENELI, lies between the Kurdish region in the northeast and the Arab region in the southwest. It stretches from Tel Afar in the northwest of Iraq at the Syrian border, through Mosul, Erbil, Altun Kopru, Kirkuk, Taza Kurmatu, Daquq, Tuz Khurmatu, Kifri, Khanaquin, Badra and Al-Aziziya southeast of Baghdad close to the Iranian border. The largest concentration of Turkmens lives in the city of Kirkuk, which they consider as their capital city and main cultural centre. There is also a large number of Turkmens in Baghdad.
Before WWI the majority of Turkmens were living in the cities, where they had businesses and shops. They had a high number of intellectuals and lived a peaceful and prosperous life. However, since the beginning of the Iraqi State in 1921, Turkmens were treated as second class citizens, their basic human rights were denied and their political leaders and intellectuals were massacred. As a consequence, they were no longer able to develop and they became the poorest ethnic group in Iraq, they were no longer able to defend themselves and their human rights adequately.

.           Minimizing the Turkmen presence in Iraq

During the Ottoman era, Iraq was administratively divided in three provinces: Baghdad, Mosul and Basra. “Mosul Province” (“Mosul Vilayat”) covered the entire north of Iraq (the present six governorates of Ninewah, Erbil, Suleymaniya, Dohuk, Salaheddin and Kirkuk).
During WWI, the British occupied Basra and Baghdad provinces and the southern part of the Mosul Province. A cease fire was declared on October 30th 1918. However, despite the cease fire the British army occupied the city of Mosul on 11th November 1918 which created the “Dispute of Mosul” between Turkey and Britain which lasted for 8 years.

The British wanted to detach Mosul Province from Turkey for economic and geopolitical reasons – essentially to control the oil reserves of Kirkuk – in order to facilitate the separation, they minimized the Turkmen presence there. Exhausted by 11 years of continuous wars since 1911, Turkey opted for peace and good relations with the west, relinquishing it’s claim on the Mosul province at the Ankara Treaty of June 5, 1926. Mosul has been officially incorporated into Iraq since then. From that date on the problems of the Turkmens intensified.  The successive Iraqi governments continued marginalizing the Turkmens, on the suspicion that they might support Turkey in case Turkey claimed back Mosul. Although Turkmens were loyal Iraqi citizens who had always resisted foreign interference in Iraq they were barred from high and sensitive government positions. They were discriminated and subjected to assimilation policies.

The last reliable census in Iraq was held in 1957 under the Monarchy, according to this census, the Turkmen population was 567.000 when the entire Iraqi population was 6 million. This means that Turkmens represented about 9% of the Iraqi population.
In 1958 the Monarchy was overthrown and Iraq was ruled by the military with the support of the Iraqi Communist party, which included a large number of Kurds within its ranks. A new constitution was issued in which Kurds were declared as ‘partners of the Arabs’, whereas the Turkmens were not mentioned. The Kurdish leader Barzani was brought back from his exile in Russia and he claimed the oil rich Kirkuk to be the capital of his proposed ‘autonomous Kurdistan’. This was rejected by both Turkmens and Arabs.
As Kurds persisted in claiming that Kirkuk was a Kurdish city, tensions rose between the original inhabitants of Kirkuk, the Turkmens, and the Kurdish newcomers to the city. On 14th July 1959 a massacre of the Turkmens took place in Kirkuk, it lasted three days during which the leaders and intellectuals of the Turkmen community were arrested and savagely murdered by the Kurdish militia and Communist party members.
In 1963 the military regime was toppled in another coup d’état, led this time by the Arab Nationalists and Baath party. In the following census the number of Turkmens was minimized in the official records and their population was recorded as 2%. Under the Arab Nationalist Baath party (1963-2003) application of double standards continued and on 24th January 1970 Turkmens were granted ‘cultural rights’, while the Kurds were given ‘autonomy’ in 3 northern provinces on March 11, 1970 and the Turkmen city of Erbil was made their capital. All those major concessions were given without asking the Turkmens. Turkmen as a nationality was removed from the official census forms. Turkmens had to choose between either becoming Arabs or Kurds. They had to declare “change of nationality” to Arabic in order to get jobs. Real estate sales were banned amongst the Turkmens. Sale could only be done to Arabs. The use of the Turkish language was banned in public and government offices. Publications in Turkish were forbidden.

Demographic changes in Turkmeneli

Turkmeneli is a region which contains fertile agricultural lands and also large oil and gas reserves. In order to weaken the Turkmen presence several demographic changes took place in the Turkmen region in the north of Iraq.
After WWI Iraq fell under British Mandate, the British immediately started to develop the oil industry in and around Kirkuk. This necessitated a large work force and a great number of Assyrians, Kurds and Arabs were brought to Kerkuk from other provinces to work in the oil industry. This was the beginning of important demographic changes in the Turkmen region and especially in Kerkuk province.
Other demographic changes took place under the Arabization policy of the Baath regime in the 1980s which installed tens of  thousands of Arab families in Kirkuk city and Kirkuk Province giving them financial incentives, jobs and agricultural lands. Several Turkmen villages were totally destroyed and their inhabitants were forcedly displaced, their agricultural lands were confiscated thus they became homeless and without any resources. The agricultural lands belonging to Turkmens were given to Arabs from neighbouring regions by the government. Today, Turkmens are still waiting to receive compensation for their losses and have still not recuperated their properties and agricultural lands.
The largest demographic change happened in Kirkuk and surrounding Turkmen towns under U.S. occupation in 2003 when the Kurdish leaders Messrs. Barzani and Talabani brought over 600.000 Kurds from other areas in Iraq and even from neighbouring countries to be settled in the city. 
On 10th April 2003, the US forces authorized the Kurdish militias to advance far beyond their “Autonomous Region” established in the three governorates in the north-east of Iraq (Duhok, Erbil and Suleymaniya) and  to invade and occupy the other governorates of the north of Iraq (Kirkuk, Mosul, Salaheddin and Diyala) where the majority of Iraqi Turkmens live. When they entered Kirkuk the Kurdish Peshmerga immediately occupied all the official buildings, they put fire to the land registry office and destroyed the records and state archives.
Today there is ongoing pressure by Kurdish and Arab authorities to shift the Turkmen population to different areas to continue the demographic change. Numerous incidents of encroachment and seizure of government and private Turkmen land by Kurdish families have been reported. These Kurdish families receive financial assistance from the Kurdish Regional Government to build houses on these Turkmen lands. In almost all Turkmen regions, from Tel Afar to Khanaqin and particularly in the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, the demographic structure was changed with the intention to gain ground for Kurdish authorities.

Since June 2014 many Turkmen cities and villages have been attacked by ISIL, 350.000 Turkmens had to flee leaving everything behind and many were tortured and killed. Neither the Iraqi army which was supposed to protect them nor the Kurdish Peshmerga forces which were stationed nearby came to their help. 
One of the Turkmen cities, AMIRLI, was besieged by ISIS and its inhabitants heroically resisted for 72 days, but contrary to the city of KOBANI in Syria, this was hardly reported in the western media and it did not get the attention of the western politicians, decision makers and humanitarian organizations. 
Since June 2014 thousands of internally displaced Turkmens have sought refuge in the Kurdish Region, but many were turned away by the Peshmerga because they are Turkmens. Others were put in transit camps where they live under dire conditions, many babies have died. Thousands of Turkmen families were taken to the south of Iraq where they were given shelter in schools and Husseyniyas (Shiite mosques).
To-date, the internally displaced Turkmens have received hardly any help from the Iraqi government, to survive they can only rely on humanitarian help from some Turkish NGOs and the generosity of other Turkmens.     
Today, the fate of the Turkmens looks very bleak, their very survival in Iraq is threatened. 
Therefore, Turkmens are calling on the European Union and the U.S. to help them to obtain  their local autonomy,  self-administration and their self-defence forces in cooperation both with the Iraqi Central Government and the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government.
Turkmens also ask the EU and US to work together with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to realise a special status for Kirkuk Province.
These demands are also those of the Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians and  the Yezidis in Iraq.
Therefore, the Turkmens, the Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians and the Yezidis have united themselves to work towards a common future in which each of their peoples are recognised as part of their country and will be able to preserve the existence of their ethnic, cultural and religious identities. Their aim is to maintain and contribute to the rich diversity of their country.
On 19th November 2014, the Iraqi Turkmen Front, the European Syriac Union and the Federation of Yezidi Associations will be signing a Common Declaration calling for the restoration of human rights to the non-ruling indigenous peoples of Iraq. This event which is organised in co-operation with the Christian Political Foundation for Europe will take place at the European Parliament in Brussels and will be hosted by MEP Branislav Skripek.

Prepared by: 
Dr. Hassan T. Aydinli, ITF representative to EU
Merry Fitzgerald – Europe-Turkmens of Iraq Friendship Association
 19th November, 2014.

-Regarding grabbing of Turkmen lands in Iraq under the Baath regime:  after 2003 the Turkmens had access for the first time to the Iraqi Government’s official documents, the Iraqi Turkmen Front  has gathered  the official decrees regarding confiscation of lands belonging to the Turkmens in three books (in Arabic) entitled:
“Turkmanity of Kirkuk  in Iraqi and international references and Documents”
“Iraqi Turkmens Suffering in Iraqi Official Documents  1968-2003” (2 volumes).

Declaration of the Turkmen, Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian and Yazidi people of Iraq at the European Parliament in Brussels


Call for the restoration of human rights to the non-ruling indigenous peoples of Iraq

The Declaration was signed on 19th November 2014
at the European Parliament in Brussels

The conference was hosted by MEP Mr. Branislav Skripek
Member of the EU Parliament, European Conservatives and Reformists Group, Member of the Bureau.

The conference was organized by Mr. Johannes de Jong, Manager Christian Political Foundation for Europe

The meeting was attended by several MEPs 

A representative from the Iraqi Embassy in Brussels was present 
A representative from the Kurdish Government was also present. 

Dr Hassan Aydinli, Iraqi Turkmen Front EU representative; Mr Fikret Igrek, Head of Foreign Affairs Federation of Yezidi Associations; Mr. Lahdo Hobil, President European Syriac Union; Mr. Johannes de Jong, Manager Christian Political Foundation for Europe; Mr. Branislav Skripek

.The signatories and Mr. Johannes de Jong 

The signatories with Mr Johannes de Jong

The signatories: Mr Fikret Igrek, Head of Foreign Affairs Federation of Yezidi Associations; Dr Hassan Aydinli, Iraqi Turkmen Front EU representative; Mr. Lahdo Hobil, President European Syriac Union; Mr. Lahdo Hobil, President European Syriac Union.

Dr Hassan Aydinli, Iraqi Turkmen Front EU representative signing the Declaration 

Prof Dr Mahir NakipDr. Hassan Aydinli and Mr. Fikret Igrek

On the panel:
Dr Hassan Aydinli, Iraqi Turkmen Front EU representative; Mr Fikret Igrek, Head of Foreign Affairs Federation of Yezidi Associations; Mr. Johannes de Jong, Manager Christian Political Foundation for Europe; Mr. Branislav Skripek, Member of the EU Parliament. 

Prof. Dr. Mahir Nakip, of Erciyes University, Kayseri 

Prof. Dr. Mahir Nakip, Erciyes University, Kayseri
making his presentation

Excerpt of the Common Declaration:

We, Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians, Turkmens and Yazidis have come together as peoples of Iraq, belonging to this country. Our peoples are original inhabitants of Iraq in equal rights with all other peoples composing our nation and living in Iraq.

Each of our peoples has suffered under the fact that our existence has not been adequately recognized in Iraq and in the international community for many decades.  We all have experienced discrimination, persecution and ethnic and cultural cleansing due to this lack of adequate recognition of our ethnic, cultural and religious identity and the right to be as we are in our country.

Now we have been driven from our homelands in Iraq by the evil that is ISIS. This evil knows nothing else but destruction and death and has hit our peoples in ways unimaginable.  Children have been decapitated, women raped and sold and men killed and tortured. The battle agains ISIS is not a religious battle but a battle for the most fundamental notions of humanity.

In light of this current crisis we have united ourselves to work towards a common future in which each of our peoples are recognized as part of our country and will be able to preserve the existence of our ethnic, cultural and religious identities. It is our aim to maintain and contribute to the rich diversity of our land and to support in this effort those peoples who are our neighbours and share the same wish for a common peaceful future.

We do not want to be treated as victims, we want to be recognized as equal citizens of Iraq.  We have come to the conclusion that in order to be recognised equal citizens of Iraq as Turkmen, Ezidi Kurds and Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians we need to have recognition and self-determination in those part of the land which have been historically (and in present day) our lands where we have been able to be and live as we are without fear for our neighbours and without the need to hide our identities.

We Ezidi Kurds want to return and live in Sinjar, we Turkmen want to return to and live in our homelands across Iraq and we Chaldeans-Syriacs-Assyrians want to return to and live in Nineveh Plain. We want to live there as citizens and recognised peoples of Iraq and not as tolerated minorities. It is this stigmatization that has lead to the situation that we are experiencing now.

For this reason it is necessary that we will have local autonomy and self-administration in cooperation both with the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional government and the Iraqi central government.


                  Turkmens from The Netherlands assisted to the Meeting and signing ceremony.
Mr. Jankeez Sabir; Mr. Ashraf Kerkuklu; Mr. Sabah Mardan and
a Turkish supporter from Brussels Mr. Turan Türe
Mr. Kahyah Safaa Yaseen; Muafak Shoker Yousef, Mr. Yavuz Kadir,  Mr. Jankeez Sabir; Mr. Ashraf Kerkuklu; Mr. Sabah Mardan

Mr. Muafak Shoker Yousef, Mr. Yavuz Kadir
Turkish friends from Germany assisted to the meeting
Mrs. Remziye Levent and Mr. Nusret Levent

Ms. Nebahat Acar, from Brussels Parliament

Mr; David Fieldsend, Archbishop of Canterbury's Representation to the EU and Dr. Hassan Aydinli, Iraqi Turkmen Front EU representative

Mr. Zlatko Balaz, Policy Advisor, European Conservative s and Reformist Group
and Dr. Hassan Aydinli, ITF EU Representative

Mr. Willy Fautré, Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers. Dr. Hassan Aydinli, ITF EU representative and Prof Dr. Mahir Nakip, Erciyes University, Kayseri

Wednesday, 24 September 2014



Looking for ISIL: How jihadists operate among Turks and others (WATCH PICS)
With seven reporters and four photographers, daily Hürriyet traces the path to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in five Turkish cities, as well as in France and Germany. A new breed of Islamic associations that has popped up across the country seems to be one of the sources of the problem
GAZİANTEP -Why here?

This southern Turkish city has been one of the focal points of news stories about the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). It is one of the cities that have seen the largest number of Syrian refugees, and people seem concerned that so many refugees can be seen in the streets. While taking the pulse of residents, Hürriyet’s correspondent in the city even received death threats.
‘I’ll go to die for Muslims’

Gaziantep resident, identified only as Hasan A., did not want to talk about ISIL at first. His 27-year-old son has gone to Syria to fight for ISIL. Hasan A. has not heard from his son for one-and-a-half months. In the past, his son was quite close to his family, wife and children, but then he joined an Islamic association that had opened a branch in his neighborhood. It was then that he started threatening those who don’t pray regularly, accusing them of not being Muslims. One day, he told his father, “I’ll go to die for Muslims,” and a few days later he had secretly left home. He has not returned since.

The spoils of war

Dursun Y., another Gaziantep resident, said his 22-year-old son and 34-year-old nephew had both joined ISIL. When he filed a complaint, he says that the police told him, “Everybody goes there, don’t mess with it, don’t get yourself into trouble.” Luckily, both of his sons returned home after six months because of the constraints they faced in the ISIL camp. But Dursun Y. is still concerned that they might go back to ISIL again one day.

“My son dropped out of school. He started to attend the meetings of an association. They deceive people in these places and recruit them. The managers of the association tell the recruits that they will be allowed to take anything there [in Syria and Iraq] as war booty, and they believe it,” he said.

How to prove the link

A police officer from Gaziantep, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says the number of Islamic associations in the city that encourage young people to wage jihad is rising. “Genç Müslümanlar” (Young Muslims) and the “Furkan group” are the most influential organizations. People apparently go to their meeting to read the Quran; but in reality, these two associations are allegedly recruiting youths for ISIL and serving as grassroots training facilities, according to the police officer.

“You know that a man is from ISIL, but you can’t prove it easily. For instance, you check his passport and see that he’s from the United Kingdom. He says he is in Antep for touristic purposes. How can you arrest this man? What evidence can you refer to?” he said.

The transit hub: Akçakale, Şanlıurfa

Witnesses say that the hub for the cross-border transfer is the Akçakale district of Şanlıurfa province, which has Syrian towns across the border that are controlled by ISIL.

Threats from an ISIL militant

One man, identified as S.C., admits that he is now an active ISIL militant. “But don’t ask me questions,” he said. “This is a very dangerous issue. Don’t get yourself in trouble. I’m a man of this cause, so do you think I would explain it to you? We have been ordered not to speak [about ISIL]. Never, ever go out and ask others about ISIL. You may end up in the wrong place and be killed in the middle of the street. Another person came here recently to ask about ISIL. Ask the neighboring shops what happened to him.”

How many recruits from Gaziantep?

A grocer in the Çıksorut neighborhood of the city said he heard people saying that up to 4,000 Gaziantep residents had joined ISIL so far. Describing these people as “those who chose a certain path themselves,” the grocer added: “You need to listen to the other side, too. You shouldn’t listen to just one side.”

Deceiving children with money

H.K, a fruit seller, says that children as young as 11 are using drugs in Gaziantep’s Güzelyurt neighborhood. “It is easy to deceive children. They are poor. ISIL deceived them by giving them money, then taking them to Iraq and Syria. Now they teach them there how to behead people,” he said.

Leaving ID cards behind

Bekir, 15, originally from the Syrian city of Aleppo, is currently living in Gaziantep’s Kurtuluş neighborhood. His family describes him as a silent person. One day, he left the official ID card given to him by Turkish authorities, which has an electronic chip, with his mother. One month ago, he told his mother to look after the card, and two days later he left home to go shopping. Nobody has heard from him since. People suspect that he has joined ISIL.


Why here?

A Newsweek article published Sept. 12 reported that Dilovası, an industrial suburb of Kocaeli province near Istanbul, has become a recruiting ground for ISIL. The locals who spoke to Hürriyet agree that the town has become an ISIL recruitment ground, but the numbers they give vary.
“Around seven people went to join ISIL, as far as we know. One or two returned, including one man who was working as a scrap dealer,” real estate agent Abdurrahman Aslan said. Another local said the number is “no more than 10,” though coffee shop owner Ali Akpınar estimates that “it’s a thousand.”

Singling out a small town

Some locals, like Enes Malkoç, are angry that their town has been singled out. “Let’s presume that 19 people from Dilovası have joined ISIL. They also say there are 3,000 Turks who have high-level positions in ISIL. It means that an average of 10-20 people from each Turkish province joined ISIL. So why is only Dilovası being spoken about?” he said.

A family’s anti-ISIL guard

One man joined ISIL. Two of his brothers wanted to follow him there, but they were both caught in the province of Konya. One of them was caught and sent back home, but he is now still trying to join ISIL. The family members take turns as a guard to stop him. Interestingly, both of their brides also wanted to join their husbands on their way to ISIL.

Drug addicts who don’t even pray

One man said most Turks who join ISIL are poor people who are also ostracized by their families, and referred to a particular ISIL recruit. “He was a drug addict,” Kocabay says, “He doesn’t even pray. Isn’t there any criteria to join ISIL?”

First, education; then, migration

But how exactly do these people join the jihadists? First of all, they receive religious education through meetings that they are invited to. Then, they are invited to join the “Hijra,” an Islamic term for migration that one has to perform as a pillar of the Islamic faith. If they accept, they go to Syria through Gaziantep or Hatay. A man named Abdülkadir Polat was referred to by several locals as a key recruiter. “His oratory skills are very powerful,” many said.

‘ISIL invites you to this week’s prayer’

Shopkeepers confirm that ISIL propagates in Dilovası. Its sympathizers sometimes visit shops. They ask who attends the mosque for Friday prayers, and after they learn this, they focus on those who don’t and invite them to come to the mosque with them. They encourage all people to join religious education classes and discussions.

Kurdish locals from northern Syria

Around 46,000 people live in the industrial area of Dilovası. Many are from the eastern provinces, and there are around 18,000 who originally came from the remote eastern province of Ağrı. There are also many people from the Black Seaprovinces.
But the number of Syrian Arabs is low. “People here are mostly Kurds. They came from Rojava [northern Syria],” a local named Nihat Aba said.


Why here?

The New York Times reported last week that some 100 people have joined ISIL from the Hacıbayram neighborhood of Ankara, in a story that Turkish PresidentRecep Tayyip Erdoğan then publicly slammed.

The rumors that “ISIL is organizing bus trips from Hacıbayram” led Turkish anti-terror police units, as well as intelligence officials, to focus on the neighborhood. It was said that 30 locals went to fight for ISIL, but the official figure is just three.

Local injured while fighting in Syria

A 14-year-old resident of Hacıbayram, identified as T.Y., was injured in Syria while fighting for ISIL. One of his relatives said ISIL had recruited him through the Internet. “T.Y. stayed in Syria for two months. He was brought back to Turkey after he was injured in a clash. His treatment is complete and now he’s back with his family. His father doesn’t let him go out, even for school, out of fear of a possible kidnapping by ISIL. All of the locals are afraid that their children may join ISIL,” the man said.

‘Hurting the town’s spiritualism’

Samet Köksal, a shopkeeper in Hacıbayram, said he cannot call ISIL “radical Islamists” because “it is annoying to mention these murderers with Islam.” “They don’t know about toilet etiquette. They use drugs, make their children and wives be beggars, but are still able to hang around in Hacıbayram, calling themselves ISIL jihadists. It hurts the spiritual nature of this place [which is named after an Islamic saint],” Köksal said.

‘More pressing problems’

However, Arif Akbaş, the neighborhood’s muhtar (local administrator) claims that only two people from Hacıbayram have gone to fight in Syria so far, including T.Y. “The other person is said to have been captured [by ISIL’s foes in Syria]. Our neighborhood has more pressing problems like unemployment and urban transformation projects, and there is not even a school here,” Akbaş said.

Drug addicts, unemployed men

O.N., another local, stresses the neighborhood was previously known to have drug-related issues. “Hacıbayram is a poor neighborhood. The houses that were emptied due to the urban transformation projects became home to drug dealers, first, and now they are home to Syrian refugees. Now we are busy with this ISIL trouble. The addicts who can’t find the money for drugs are being deceived with ISIL’s promises that they will have a good salary. Addicts therefore search for a way to join ISIL,” O.N. said.


Why here?

ISIL is currently fighting the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the Kurdish militia in Syria, as well as the Peshmerga, the security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq. Even in this predominantly Kurdish city of Turkey, however, there are people who join ISIL.

Facebook and dervish lodges

ISIL’s main platforms for its organizational activities are Facebook, dervish lodges (dergah) and bookstores. The militants have tried to create a center of attractions by opening dervish lodges and bookstores in eastern and southeastern provinces like Bingöl, Van, Muş, Adıyaman, Gaziantep, Diyarbakır, Urfa and Mardin. Those who decide to join the group generally travel to the city center of Şanlıurfa before being escorted by militants to the border for crossing.

Families refrain from talking

Due to the political structure and the rising anger in Diyarbakır, families whose children have joined ISIL are reluctant to talk openly. One person, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he met ISIL through Islamic bookstores, joined the group, but then left. “I understood it after I saw its true face. Humans are being used like robots there. They don’t think of anything other than killing or being killed,” he said.


Vitry Sur Seine, which was the first town that the French police raided late last year, is a southern suburb of Paris. There are young and middle aged men on its streets, even during the day time, amid its council houses. Men smoke on balconies; burqa-clad women shop from halal butcher shops; young men either sleep in cafes and solidarity clubs or stand in line in front of job recruitment agencies. Some 930 French citizens are fighting in Iraq and Syria as jihadists, according to France’s Interior Ministry.


Germany’s interior intelligence agency estimates that some 400 German citizens have gone to Syria as jihadists so far. One third of them are thought to be of Turkish heritage.

One, a 20-year-old identified as A.C, while living with his family in Ennepetal, a small town in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, met a group of Salafists last year who convinced him to wage jihad for ISIL. He then flew to Turkey in June, followed by his father who was trying to stop his dangerous journey. His father was unable to find him, and A.C.’s cellphone signal was intercepted in the southern Turkish province of Hatay before he vanished completely.

In Iraq, where he took on the jihadist codename “Al-Almani” (The German), he was killed in a suicide attack at an Iraqi army checkpoint near Baghdad on July 19. Many schoolchildren were among the 54 people who died in the attack.
“That’s how I will become the hero of the Caliphate,” A.C. said in a pre-recorded “martyrdom” video.


Europe’s largest city is also home to ISIL recruits. Living in the poor Sultanbeyli neighborhood on the edge of the Asian side of Istanbul, Hüseyin (not his real name) was one of two sons of a single mother originally from the Black Seaprovince of Rize. Coming from a moderately conservative family, he says “he was not living like a Muslim in the past,” but now that past is gone, and so is his clean-shaven face.

- How did you go to Syria?
I went to Aleppo from Hatay. This route has been used in the past. Then the Free Syrian Army (FSA) took control of it and they started to stop the mujahedeen (jihadists) from using it.

- How did you cross the border?
Like ordinary smugglers. I jumped the fence and ran.

- Were you alone?
If there are people on the way that are bound in the same destination, you see yourself running together with the others. Otherwise, you are alone.

- Who did you find after you went to Syria?
Every group has their houses. This front or that front… They have their flags, so you choose which one you will go to.

- Which one did you choose?
I went to the al-Nusra Front.

- But then the al-Nusra Front members clashed with the ISIL…
Before, the al-Nusra Front was not like it is today. It was good. But then, useless men from the FSA joined the al-Nusra Front, and that’s when it was broken. The FSA has all kinds of people, including thieves, rapists and corrupt people. This is one of the reasons why the Islamic State [ISIL] attacks them – because of the oppression, the pillaging that they do. They say they are dedicated to the cause of Islam; they have beards; they exclaim “God is great”; they say they are in jihad. But they don’t even pray and they smoke. They took over a bakery and then increased the price of bread.

- How many times have you crossed into Syria?
Five times. First, they call you and teach you in Islamic classes. Then they check out who you are and if you might be an agent. After all, there are agents everywhere.

- Which nation has the greatest number of its citizens in Syria?
There are people from everywhere. Even Chinese Muslims. Of course, Arabs are the majority.

- How did the war between the al-Nusra Front and ISIL start?
They raped the wives of three mujahedeen.

- Did fighters take their wives with them?
Some of them do. British and Dutch ones… Muslims abroad come with their wives, because their wives are also Muslims. How can they look after them in a Christian country?
The truth is not like people see from here [Turkey]. They say the mujaheeden are so tough, slaughtering everyone, but this is not true.

- Are the beheading films fabricated?
Those who don’t commit crimes, those who are not agents, those who don’t do what God forbids, are not punished. But if you do these things, then you are punished, even if you are a mujahedeen commander. For instance, one commander had a fight with a local citizen and he was not right. The citizen went to the qadi [religious-based judge] and complained. The commander was whipped 80 times as punishment.

- Many of them spent some 20 years while fighting in Afghanistan, Caucasia, Bosnia, Libya and Syria. Are you sure that they are not “tough”?
Their toughness is not their character; it’s a result of Islamic rules. He can be tough, but if the way of his toughness is forbidden by Islam, then he is jailed. They say to him: “Either abandon these ways or leave.”

- How do these people live? What do they eat and drink? Is it true that they receive $150 as payment per day?
Only their arms and food expenses have been covered. No cash is being paid. The men leave their jobs here and go to fight there. They are not there to do business in the war zone. You fight in the war zone.

- You were arrested. How?
We were bringing aid to the camps. Our cars were stolen. Somebody sold us those cars with fake IDs. I was released in the first trial session.

- Have you ever heard of Abu Hanzala, the preacher whose sermons are popular on Facebook?
He is a student of Islamic learning. He is in jail. He is a Turk. Everyone knows him. He has been in and out of jail for years. He has his own congregation and organizes religious sermons.

- He has made many calls for Turks to “join the Islamic State…”
No, he has not. He was in jail when all of these things started.

- What do you think about the future of Syria?
God knows, but God helps Muslims.

- Would you go to another Muslim country if something similar happens there one day?
It is a religious obligation, just like jihad or daily prayers. Those who don’t go will have troubles, not those who go. If a Muslim is hurt in the Arctic, we would go there too.

- How many of your acquaintances have been killed while fighting?
Six or seven people. One of them had my name, a childhood friend. I knew his parents very well. He is one of the martyrs now. He was buried in Syria.

Meanwhile, there are many ISIL sympathizers in Turkey who see no problem with sharing pro-ISIL photos on their Facebook accounts.

Mehmet Dülger, a self-proclaimed mujahid, posted a photo showing himself with a gun in Raqqa, ISIL’s stronghold in Syria. (photo below)

Cihad Aslan, another Facebook user, notes his profession on Facebook as “working for God,” while a video showing Turkish jihadists in Raqqa celebrating the declaration of “the Caliphate” with gunfire can also be found online.

Elements of popular culture have also been adopted by jihadists. One young man, for instance, posted on Facebook to challenge his friends with an ice bucket shower, to donate money “to a mujahid brother’s family.