Turkish authoritarian leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan had long shunned the secular foundations of modern Turkey and pushed for a more medievalist Islamisation of the country. This was evident with his recent decision to convert the 6th-century Byzantine-era cathedral in Istanbul once again into a mosque. Now, a report published in Arab News reveals that there exist radical Salafist groups in Turkey to take on the Kurds, which have been the primary enemies for Ankara.
Islamic cult leader Ahmet Mahmut Unlu announces the existence of more than 2000 Salafist organisations in Turkey
The revelation that there are legions of Salafist organisations active in the country came from an Islamic cult leader Ahmet Mahmut Unlu, a pro-government figure, had recently announced that he was ready to disclose 150 Salafi associations, along with their locations, as a part of preparations to fight in Turkey.
Unlu added that there are more than 2000 Salafist organisations across the country, ready to wage a civil war, particularly in the southeastern provinces of Batman and Adiyaman.
The groups have reportedly threatened people with death threats and issued warning to the government against taking measures to place a curb on them.
It is also worth noting that the southeastern provinces of Adiyaman was earlier a breeding ground for enlisting and deploying ISIS cells in Turkey.
However, the interior minister of Turkey, Suleyman Soylu, has strongly denied the accusations that rabid Salafist organisations are active in the country.
Analysts believe Salafist organisations in Turkey took root during in the wake of the Syrian conflict
According to Colin Clarke, a senior research fellow on terror financing networks with the Soufan Group, some Salafi groups might have struck an agreement with the Erdogan government in Turkey, as per the Arab News report . Clark added that Erdogan considers these groups as a counterbalance against the Kurds, which still remain the number one enemy for the ruling establishment.
He added that while Turkey has promised to wage fight against ISIS and other terror groups, it has hardly taken credible action to limit their presence on Turkish soil, as per the Arab News report.
About 4 years ago, Turkish police had reported that there were more than 20,000 active Salafi organisations in the country.
Erdogan’s Islamist policies benefits Salafist organisations in Turkey
Analysts also believe that a high number of Salafi organisations in Turkey can be ascribed to its policy of facilitating foreign fighters sympathetic to ISIS to cross the border into Syria and wage a jihad against the Assad regime, which ultimately resulted in the strengthening of the Salafi-jihadist groups, including Jabaat Al-Nusra and ISIS.
However, later Turkey was at the receiving end of the wrath of these Salafist organisations, many of whom turned their rage towards Ankara, that resulted in a spate of terror attacks on Turkish soil. There were 10 suicide bombings, bomb attacks which led to the killing of more than 315 people.
Experts also believe that Recep Erdogan’s move to cater to the neo-Islamists in the country may also enjoy Salafi organisations’ support, who adhere to a more puritanical version of Islam. The increasingly radical political environment push for Islamism, most notably with the reversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, provides Salafi organisations with enough reasons enough to back him as their leader and consequently diminished incentives for the Turkish dictator to act against the Salafis.