How Turkey has been fooling the world and helping terror organisations is a matter of concern

Turkey has been in the limelight for past few years. The country has been ignoring the rules of NATO, actively helping Islamic State terrorists in Iraq & Syria, has direct involvement in Syrian and Azerbaijan-Armenia wars, unethically supporting Pakistan on various platforms and trying to create a parallel Islamic forum to counter Saudi Arabia-led OIC.

A recent report in Financial Times mentioned that it is likely that Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is discussing a proposal to put Turkey in the Grey list of FATF for failing to combat money laundering and terror financing. Additionally, December 2019 Evaluation report of FATF on Turkey categorically mentioned large gaps in the Turkish efforts to counter terror financing which resulted in Turkey being put on notice amid several reviews over last two years. Recently, FATF, during their meeting on 21-25 June 2021 finalised a proposal for grey listing of Turkey which is likely to be approved on 21st October 2021. If it happens, Turkey will become the 23rd country to join the club of “Elite Grey Listers” along with its friend Pakistan.

How Turkey has been fooling the world and helping terror organisations is a matter of concern. Here are few of the facts which indicates Turkey’s active support to terrorism

1. Terror Financing of Islamic State- Let us remember the brutal rule of Islamic State in Iraq & Syria (ISIS) in the middle east during 2013-2017. The group was running a parallel economy of about 3-4 Billion USD at its peak and being in the proximity of both Iraq & Syria, Turkey was a natural choice to keep their finances safe. As per the documents recovered during a Mosul raid in 2016, ISIS had converted their fortune into dollars, bullion bars and other foreign currencies using the Turkish network of money exchangers, NGOs and bullion dealers. Further, it was learnt that a significant portion of money transfer to Islamic State in Khorasan Province in Afghanistan also happened through Turkey.

2. Support to Al-Qaeda- Recently in September 2021, United States had put five individuals from Turkey in its sanctions list for getting involved in terror financing of Al-Qaeda. One of them named Nurettin Muslihan was involved in planning an armed attack and was charged in Turkey for his actions. However, on the intervention of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, not only the case was dismissed but the monitoring and surveillance of the accused was also withdrawn. There are other terror financers like Yasin Al-Qadi (Al-Qaeda) and Saleh-Al-Aruri (Hamas) who are sanctioned by the US but are continuing to operate freely from Turkey. Such events clearly indicate as to how Turkey has been supporting terror all these years in the veil of being a NATO member.

Turkey’s direct support to Al-Qaeda was further visible in 2012 when it refused to designate the “Al-Nusrah Front”, a dreaded terror organisation and part of Al-Qaeda as a terror organisation despite international pressure. As a result, Al-Nusrah Front continues to operate its finances from Turkey till date.

3. Iranian Gas For Gold- Despite being a NATO country, Turkey has displayed certain actions contrary to the interests of NATO. When United States was pressurising the world for dismantling Iranian Nuclear Program and no one was buying petroleum products from them, Turkey’s government-owned bank “Halkbank” was involved in buying Iranian Gas and paying in gold. Halkbank even established its branch in Tehran to facilitate these bullion transactions. Iran’s support to some of the global terror groups is not a secret anymore and due to this, the Turkish gold finally made its way to arm these terrorist groups.

4. Support To Syrian Terrorist groups- Turkey’s support to groups like Free Syrian Army, Syrian Islamic Liberation Front and others is out in the open. In fact, their training, weapons and equipment and other logistics is totally supplied by Turkey which is against the international conventions. In 2013, US President Barak Obama wrote to Turkish president Erdogan highlighting how anti-western terrorists are finding safe refuge in Turkey, but Turkish authorities treated it like an eyewash.

5. Humanitarian Relief Council (IHH) of Turkey- IHH was an NGO operating out of Ankara and actively supported by Erdogan regime. Immediately after its formation, it was put as a subject of concern for terror financing by CIA and it was found that they were sponsoring terror activities in the garb of a humanitarian organisation. By 2001, they became part of a Saudi based NGO called “Union of God” which was designated as a terrorist entity in 2008. However, the Turkey branch of IHH is still flourishing under the patronage of their government. There has been concrete evidence that IHH is still supporting ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other Salafi organisations but there has been no action till date.

The FATF report of 2019 mentioned in no uncertain words that due to its location at an intercontinental junction and having diverse economy, Turkey has significant Terror Financing and Money Laundering risks. Further, due to the activities of Terrorist organisations, Criminals and Foreign terrorist fighters in the country, threats become more severe. Also, the activities of drug smugglers, parallel Islamic banking system, human traffickers, illegal money exchangers, real estate developers and dealers of precious metals and goods in Turkey make it vulnerable to terror financing threats. The report clearly mentioned that Turkey is the primary transit route of terrorists and being a safe country, become a natural choice for terror organisations to hide their financial system.

It is pertinent to mention here that although Turkey has implemented laws related to the subject matter and has all the relevant checks in place, it failed to report even a single suspicious transaction from non-banking institutions and NGOs in last 15 years fully knowing that these are the organisations primarily involved in terror financing. Over last few years, Turkey’s Financial Crime Investigation Agency called MASAK deliberately delayed the legal proceedings against people mentioned in UN Security Council Resolution 1267 and other United Nations Security Council resolutions which proves that terror sponsoring has become a state matter in Turkey.

World is moving at a faster pace to counter radical Islamic Terrorism and in such situation, it becomes pertinent not only to punish the terrorists but to their supporters too. Finances are the backbone of any terror organisation, and the way Turkey has been involved in large scale terror support across the globe, high time that FATF should put it in its extensive monitoring list without any delay.