First published … December 18, 2020
Turkey is a source and transit country for foreign terrorist fighters seeking to join the Islamic State (ISIS) and other terrorist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, the U.S. State Department said in its annual terrorism report issued on Thursday.
The U.S. Treasury, in a report in January, said that the Islamic State (ISIS) continued to rely on “logistical hubs” inside Turkey for its finances. Since then, United States authorities have issued sanctions to target Turkey-based individuals in foreign terrorist organisations more than half a dozen times.
Turkey has a broad definition of terrorism, the report noted, which the government regularly uses to criminalise the exercise of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Such a broad definition of terrorism includes “so-called crimes against constitutional order and internal and external security of the state”, the report said. This has resulted in Turkey taking legal action “against more than 6,743 social media users whom it accused of propagandizing or promoting terror organizations.”
Referencing the Turkish Interior Ministry, the report said Turkey deported 8,143 people between 2015 and December this year for suspected ties to terrorism. The country’s list of persons barred from entry reportedly contained “around 100,000 names”.
The Turkish government started to classify followers of “self-exiled cleric and political figure Fethullah Gulen” as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ) in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the report said. It noted that the group “is not a designated terrorist organisation in the United States”.
The department found that the Turkish government “continues to detain and arrest Turkish citizens as well as foreign citizens residing in Turkey – including locally employed staff at the U.S. Mission to Turkey – for alleged FETO or terrorism-related links, often on the basis of scant evidence and minimal due process”.
Responding to the report, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Ankara’s anti-terrorism efforts “were not evaluated in a fair manner”, calling its approach “incomplete and biased”.
The ministry said Washington was “well aware” that its ally Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a primarily Kurdish group in northern Syria, was “under the guidance of” the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). As an armed group fighting for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for four decades, PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by both Turkey and the United States.
“In the report, it is observed that Türkiye’s just and legitimate fight against the heinous FETO terrorist organization is assessed with prejudice,” the ministry said.
Turkey expects the United States to “put an end to the presence and activities of FETO in the country, not to provide a haven for FETO members”, it added, concluding the statement by declaring:
“Türkiye maintains its expectations of a consistent, determined and effective stance from the US and its allies in the fight against terrorism. Attitudes and rhetoric beyond this are incompatible with the efforts aimed at enhancing international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the spirit of alliance relationship.”