… by Ian Greenhalgh
The story of the war against Islamic State has been a very complex affair with many twists and turns; it has kept us on our toes by challenging our existing conceptions of who is who and whom are they working for. Unlike traditional wars where two sides wearing distinct uniforms and clearly identifying themselves do battle, this war has seen myriad groups of uncertain origins and often confusing appearances attack not so much the nation states of Syria and Iraq but their civilian populations.
Recent developments have made things somewhat clearer; we now know that IS is largely a myth and what we were really seeing in Syria and Iraq was a proxy war where mercenary forces employed by Turkey using Saudi money waged a campaign that was all about the profits to be made from wholescale looting and theft of vast quantities of oil; the stories of religiously motivated Islamic Fundamentalists fighting to create an Islamic Caliphate were just cover for good old-fashioned raping, looting and pillaging.
In the last few months the fighting has spread to the Kurdish region of Turkey and it has been the same one-sided affair where an entire population, both soldiers and civilians alike have come under the onslaught of a far better armed and equipped military.
The difference, and it is a subtle difference, is that the attacking military forces are not masquerading as Islamic Fundamentalists; instead they are wearing the uniforms of Turkey’s armed forces and police.
Reporting from the Kurdish region of Turkey has been difficult so this has largely been an unreported war as Turkey’s national media has been brought under state control and access to the region has been severely restricted, thus preventing foreign reporters from gaining access and reporting on the fighting. One reporter for RT was able to gain access to the city of Cizre and report on the aftermath of the fighting which has devastated the city and lead to accusations of a number of war crimes including burning Kurdish civilians alive en masse:
It was from Cizre late last year that the word first came about the activities of a group of supposed policemen fighting for the Erdogan regime who went by the name Esedullah (Lions of Allah) and were allegedly responsible for the worst of the crimes of violence against the Kurdish population.
An article posted on November 25, 2015 by Turkish human rights campaigner Orhan Kemal Cengiz describes:
A mysterious security force has taken the lead in operations in Turkey’s Kurdish areas, raising alarm with its heavy-handed methods and seemingly religious motivation.
Cengiz’s article makes it clear that the Erdogan regime is sponsoring violence and terrorism not only across the border in Syria but also within it’s own borders against Turkey’s Kurdish minority:
For several months now, Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast seems to have been thrown back to the 1990s, a period marked by gross human rights violations, as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) pushes a new strategy extending armed confrontations to urban areas.
The bloody unrest in cities and towns has followed a distinct pattern: PKK militants first dig trenches in various neighborhoods and then proclaim the area an “autonomous region.” The local governor subsequently responds by imposing a round-the-clock curfew, which not only bars residents from going out but completely cuts off the area, making it off-limits to the media and any nonresidents, as the security forces move in to purge the PKK militants.
The curfews and the ensuing clashes have lasted up to 10 days in some areas, with civilians confined to their homes, unable to go out to buy food or go to the hospital. The security operations, unfolding away from the public eye and media scrutiny, have led to allegations of grave human rights violations, including claims that civilians are deliberately killed in raids that sometimes involve tanks and aerial bombardments.
Neighborhoods have been completely destroyed, and the media have carried images reminiscent of war zones, with walls torn down and houses riddled with bullets and mortar shrapnel.
Judging by the extent of the destruction and bloodshed, one could conclude the Turkish state has reverted to its familiar, heavy-handed style of “problem resolution.” Yet, some images captured by the media and witness accounts point to a new, alarming element unseen in the country so far. In the town of Idil in Sirnak province, for instance, special operations police forces, clad in black and wearing balaclavas, were filmed celebrating a “successful” operation by firing in the air and chanting “Allahu akbar” (God is great). Police and soldiers fighting in the Kurdish areas are known to be using nationalist slogans and symbols, but the use of religious ones is unprecedented.
Here is the video, it is clear these are not normal police forces; they act just like the terrorists of IS.
Before it was seized by the Erdogan regime, the Turkish popular daily newspaper Zaman (‘Today’ in English) published the following story about the Esedullah:
(the article has been removed from the Zaman website but I was able to retrieve it from Google’s cache)
November 21, 2015, Saturday/ 17:00:00/ İSMAİL AVCI | DIYARBAKIR
The “Esedullah timi” (Esedullah team), whose name is sprayed on the walls of tense southeastern towns that have witnessed ongoing clashes between security forces and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), remains a mystery.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in a report it recently prepared has called on the government to urgently determine who this team is. This team was also brought to Parliament’s agenda by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in a parliamentary question. However, the Interior Ministry has not yet responded to the question posed by the opposition on the team.
Turkey heard about the “Esedullah team” for the first time in Cizre, a town in Şırnak province. Journalists who entered Cizre after a several-day-long curfew that left 23 people dead was lifted in September observed some graffiti sprayed on the walls of in the town. Among those slogans was “Esedullah timi burada” (the Esedullah team is here).
After Cizre, the same slogan also appeared on walls in Diyarbakır’s Sur district, where two police officers were earlier killed during clashes. Then the same slogan was also seen in other southeastern towns where intense clashes took place during several-day-long curfews.
Who sprayed such slogans on the walls of streets where only special ops units were able to enter? Some observers say it is a special unit formed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, others believe this team consists of bearded men who were brought from Rojava — the Kurdish name given to northern Syria — while some others say it is a new unit established within the police.
Graffiti stating “You will see the power of the Esedullah team and the power of Turks” was found on a wall in Sur, where a four-day curfew was imposed in October.
After images of the graffiti circulated in the media, HDP Diyarbakır deputy Çağlar Demirel in a parliamentary question in October asked Interior Minister Selami Altınok what the “Esedullah team” was. Demirel asked who wrote the graffiti on the wall in Sur during the curfew, also asking if this team is linked to the special ops units that were deployed to Sur for an operation.
The HDP deputy also asked whether such a team exists in the police or military units, further questioning what authorities and duties were given to members of this mystery team. However, Altınok has not yet answered Demirel’s questions although nearly two months have passed since the question was submitted.
Esedullah team most recently seen in Silvan
Similar graffiti also appeared in Silvan, a town in Diyarbakır province, where a 12-day curfew was imposed. Phrases such as “Girls, we have come and we have entered your dens” and “Esedullah Timi” were written on the walls of houses and offices in Silvan. Some images showing special ops officers writing on the walls in Silvan also circulated on social media networks. The Interior Ministry launched a probe after the images surfaced.
The CHP also acted following the release of the images, preparing a report based on its examinations about the curfews in the Silvan, Bismil and Sure districts of Diyarbakır. In the report, the CHP stated the graffiti such as “Esedullah Timi” has raised suspicions of the existence of a team acting like a “team of revenge” in the predominantly Kurdish towns in the Southeast.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman, HDP deputies Demirel, Sibel Yiğitalp and Ziya Pir say those who were involved in operations in the Southeast do not resemble ordinary security personnel. Demirel says: “These people point guns at women and children. They get men on the ground and crush their legs, hands and backs with their feet. They do not recognize any laws. Their faces are covered. No one knows who they are.” Yiğitalp says the identity of those people who oppressed the locals in Silvan must be made public as soon as possible. “If this team consists of the security forces, it is much more serious,” Pir added.
One of the most detailed reports comes from the article “Impressions from Sur” by Nur Banu Kocaaslan:
“In Sur, where there were a 4 day long curfew people said that they saw “wierd” persons during the operations and that they had nothing to do with “state’s police forces”.
The quotes in Kocaaslan’s article from Kurdish residents of Sur are most telling:
They were like IS militants with their long beards
They were worst than special forces, it’s not certain who are they serving to. Some had long beards. They seemed like they were on drugs.
I stuck my head slightly out the window. It wasn’t the ordinary policeman (of the state). With long, black beard doesn’t seem like a policeman. I don’t believe that they were policemen. He shouted: “enter quickly”. With his long beard he seems like an IS guy. You should see his looks, so cruel.
Kocaaslan also reported that in Cizre where the curfew continued for 9 days people told similar stories to imctv.
It is clear from their actions what the Esedullah undoubtedly are – mercenary thugs recruited with Saudi petrodollars from all across the Arab world.
These are precisely the same people who have been dressing up as ‘Islamic Fundamentalists’ and terrorising the people of Syria and Iraq under the guise of ‘Islamic State’; the only difference is that inside Turkey’s borders they dress up as police; however the cruelty, violence, torture, murder and bloodlust remain the same.