The Turkish State has Become the Mafia, the Mafia has Become the State
Interview with Hatip Dicle, former co-chair of the Democratic People`s Congress (DTK) in Turkey, about the background and implications of Sedat Peker`s revelations
Kurdish politician Hatip Dicle evaluates the confessions of Sedat Peker, a mafia boss and hitman for the Turkish state, published on YouTube, as well as their current and historical background. This interview was conducted in May 2021 but still includes many important aspects that help us understand today`s deepening crisis in Turkey.
Sedat Peker, a contract killer for the Turkish state and a mafia boss, has begun publishing insider knowledge. What is your assessment of what is going on?
As far as the intertwining of the state and the mafia is concerned, we are in a very interesting phase. We have our experience with this from the 90s. It is most important to know what the roots of this gang formation are. What is happening today has its roots in history. What happened yesterday leaves traces in today. This is a dialectical reality. This period can be traced back to the last government of the Ottoman Empire, that of the İttihat Terakki1. Sedat Peker's fifth video featured the symbols of the İttihat Terakki and the Teşkilat-i Mahsusa2, a sign that he, too, refers to the İttihat Terakki. At the end of his videos, Sedat Peker always says, "We will never let go of the goal of Turan3, we will definitely achieve the unity of all Turk countries."
Could these words also be a sign that he is not alone?
Of course he is not alone. Between his words, he keeps saying "the friends warned me". The friends he is talking about are his own organization, his own gang.
Regarding the 90s, you are one of the people who are, as Musa Anter put it, both witnesses and suspects. Your mandate as an MP was revoked, you were in prison for many years. In the 1990s, the term "gang state" was often used. Where did this begin?
On August 15, 1984 [the beginning of the PKK's armed struggle], Turgut Özal was prime minister and Kenan Evren was president of Turkey. At that time, the state said about the PKK, "These are three to five bumblers, they will be crushed in a short time". On the contrary, the guerrilla grew stronger day by day and anchored itself in the mountains of Kurdistan. The state then developed different plans. For example, the village guard system was established, the state of emergency was imposed, or the special forces were formed. The people resisted these repressions and the Serhildans4, the popular uprisings, began. Kerboran (Dargeçit), Cizîr (Cizre), Nisêbîn (Nusaybin), in short, the entire Botan region rose up during these Serhildans.
What really angered the state then occurred in 1991: The People's Labor Party (Halkın Emek Partisi, HEP) was founded. The HEP entered the Turkish political stage as a party founded jointly by Kurds, Alevis and the working classes. The state encountered a third force and decided to take important measures because it understood that this problem could not be taken lightly.
At that time, a Kurdish parliament had been established in South Kurdistan. During this period, two currents emerged within the Turkish state. One current was led by Özal and proposed a democratic solution to the Kurdish question. Those who were close to this current came to the conclusion: "A parliament was established in South Kurdistan in 1992. The Kurds have taken a step toward a political status, a step toward state formation." We met with Özal himself at the time and he said to us, "We tried the village guard system, special forces, and state of emergency, but none of that worked at all." It looked at the time as if they had understood that the Kurdish question cannot be solved by force.
And what did the other current in the state think?
The other current was composed of those who still thought that they could achieve results by force. This policy continues until today. Wiping out the Kurds culturally and, if necessary, physically is what they understand to be the solution. This trend of defending violence has dominated state policy since 1992. What was the result? During the Newroz celebrations in 1992, we were HEP MPs, and they opened fire on the population; on completely unarmed people who simply wanted to demonstrate peacefully. 103 people lost their lives then. Five months later, Şirnex (Şırnak) was attacked under the pretense of a battle, the city was destroyed, many people lost their lives. This was the punishment for the people who had participated in the Serhildans.
In 1994, the period that led to the closure of the HEP began. In those days a merciless operation to destroy the guerrilla also began. The new state used force against the three newly emerging forces of "people", "HEP" and "guerrilla". But Özal, foreseeing that this policy of violence would produce no results, contacted the PKK through three channels.
Which three channels?
First, through us, the HEP deputies; second, through journalists like Cengiz Çandar; and third, through the leader of the PUK5 [Patriotic Union of Kurdistan], Celal Talabanî, Mam Celal. Through all three channels, they made the same demand: "Before Newroz 1993, Mr. Öcalan needs to declare a ceasefire. This ceasefire needs to be open-ended." Özal told us, "We convinced some generals." For example, Özal was accompanied by generals such as the commander of the military police, General Eşref Bitlis, or politicians such as Adnan Kahveci, and they in turn received great support from Özal.
How did Öcalan evaluate the messages Özal sent him at the time?
Mr. Öcalan, after receiving the messages, declared a one-month ceasefire on March 17, 1993. Özal contacted us and sent a message to Mr. Öcalan: "This was a positive step, but for us to take a step as well, the ceasefire must be indefinite."To deliver this message, we traveled with a delegation of six people to the Bekaa Plain in Lebanon. On April 16, 1993, Mr. Öcalan declared an indefinite ceasefire at a press conference where Mam Celal and Cengiz Çandar were also present. We were very happy, of course, because we had high hopes that the war, which had been going on for nine years, might finally come to an end.
And then came the news that Özal had lost his life…
Yes, on April 17, 1993, we were going to take a plane to Istanbul via Damascus. That morning we were making our travel arrangements. We were not yet in Damascus when Mam Celal gave us the bad news. He had heard it on an Arabic radio station: Özal had died on the morning of April 17. An interesting date, wasn't it? The day after the cease-fire had been extended... Özal was going to give a press conference that day to respond to Öcalan, and we received the news of his death a few hours before the statement.
How did that affect you and Öcalan? How did you interpret that?
We were devastated. Before we came to Damascus, we had spoken to Mr. Öcalan and he had told us: "Özal was most likely killed by the state, because there has been this tradition since the Ottoman Empire: `Whoever fails dies.` This is actually the slogan of the İttihat ve Terakkî and also the rule of the Teşkilât-i Mahşûşa. The fact that Özal turned to us for a peaceful solution was perceived as a defeat by the supporters of the genocide. Therefore, Özal was punished with death." Later, an examination of his hair commissioned by his family revealed that Özal had been poisoned.
What form did the policy of the state take after Özal's death?
In 1993-94, only violence prevailed. Suleyman Demirel became president in Özal's place. Tansu Çiller, who did not know Turkey very well, became prime minister. Çiller fueled the violence with the words, "Honor to those who shoot or are shot for the state." Just as today Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is a gang leader, back then it was Alparslan Türkeş who played that role. The government officially consisted of the DYP6 and the SHP7, but the secret coalition partner, and perhaps even the one leading the way, was Alparslan Türkeş.
Of course, when talking about the prevailing politics of violence after Özal's death, one must also talk about some other issues that still matter today. There were two other important events before Özal's death. One was the plane crash in Ankara that killed Eşref Bitlis, and an attack disguised as a traffic accident that killed Adnan Kahveci. Adnan Kahveci was an important figure. I read his report "How Can the Kurdish Question Not Be Solved?" when I was an MP. It was a very rational report.
What was the content of this report?
It stated that the Kurdish question cannot be solved by force. Adnan Kahveci was in a way Özal's right-hand. Özal said after his death, "I have lost my son." The dominant, pro-violence İttihat Terakki wing, liquidated first Özal's entourage and then Özal himself to take over the state altogether. Tansu Çiller was one of them. Alparslan became a kind of coalition partner of the government and Demirel, who said yes and amen to everything, the president.
In 1993 and `94, nearly 400 members and board members of the HEP and DEP (Demokrasi Partisi, Democracy Party) were executed in the streets. There have been an estimated 17,000 murders perpetrated by the state, and 4,500 villages were burned and destroyed during these years.
Was the Susurluk accident a coincidence?
No, it was not. Alpaslan Türkeş said in a statement after the accident, "This was murder." There was also talk later that the Turkish MİT (Millî İstihbarat Teşkilâtı) intelligence agency organized this accident. By remote control, the brakes of the car were turned off and the car crashed into a truck from behind. And who was sitting in the car? Sedat Bucak. Bucak was important. Because he was a deputy of the DYP and after the murder of Hakkı Bucak, he was also a tribal leader. The Bucaks' estate was off-limits to the police because he was growing marijuana there, which was used to make drugs. With him in the car was Hüseyin Kocadağ, who was an important man in the special forces. He was on duty at the time of the accident. What did this bring to light? The triangular network of the state, the mafia and politics...
By whom were they executed and why?
The Turkish state has never been homogeneous. Even back then, there was a realist wing in the state. And I think this is still the case today. This wing was composed of people who realized that these things would lead to the complete collapse of the state and completely corrupt society. The fact that Mehmet Ağar8 was involved in drug trafficking at that time was also revealed by MİT reports. If these gangs had been crushed at that time, we would not have to experience all this even now...
For a while it appeared that the mafia had retreated into the background. What made it take over the leading role again today?
When the war against the Kurds was restarted in 2015, Erdoğan himself involved the mafia in the state structures. For example, it is said about Süleyman Soylu that he is Mehmet Ağar's closest confidant. It is also said that Mehmet Ağar is the real Minister of Interior of Turkey. Ağar has positioned his people everywhere at the key positions within the state.
Relations between Ağar and Gülen were also on the agenda at one point...
Yes, Mehmet Ağar has also admitted that. The Azerbaijani businessman Maşimo testified that he sent Ağar to the U.S. to meet Fetullah Gülen with the knowledge of the state.
Sedat Peker strongly targets Mehmet Ağar. In order to tear down the bridge between Ağar and Erdoğan, he revealed something by asking, "When you were in prison, didn't you frame the letter Gülen sent you and put it on the wall?" This is very important and exposes the connection between Mehmet Ağar and Fetullah Gülen.
Such clique relations in the state never end. In the past, there were only two Islamic currents that became part of the state activities: One founded the `Association for the Fight against Communism' in 1965 in the interest of the state, and the other played vanguard and supported the regime before the 1980 coup. All the others opposed the regime. One of the two aforementioned currents was the community of Fettullah Gülen, and the other was the community of the so-called Mehmet Kırkıncı Hoca from Erzîrom (Erzurum).
Let us turn to today: Why has this dispute escalated?
Because Turkey is in a severe economic crisis and the pie has become smaller.
Alaattin Çakıcı9 was released. The MHP had insisted on it. And today, among the mafia actors, Alaattin Çakıcı is the one who relies completely on the MHP. A photo was taken in the Turkish city of Bodrum showing all the bigwigs of the "deep state" - except Sedat Peker. That Peker went abroad at that time, of all times, is also no coincidence.
To get a piece of the pie or not, that is the question. Sedat Peker says he has been a part of the state since he was 16 years old. But how did Sedat Peker get to know Turkey? During the Susurluk trial, he was seen with Veli Küçük and Korkut Eken. Later, his name appeared among the initiators of the murder of Hrant Dink.
Peker continues to say "Tayyip Abi" (big brother Tayyip), but by lashing out against the interior minister, he also attacks Erdoğan. Think about it, Erdoğan usually gives everyone an answer, but this time he is silent. There is nothing like this anywhere else in the world. Even the prosecutors have not taken action yet.
What strikes you when you compare today's mafia network with that of the 90s?
In the '90s, it was always said "the state uses certain mafia structures," but now the mafia has seized power over the state. The legal system is completely under the mafia`s control.
This brings us back to the question of whether Sedat Peker is alone or not…
He is definitely not alone. But what role Erdoğan plays is not yet entirely clear. There are some who claim that Erdoğan is also being targeted, that he too is leaving soon.
Erdoğan is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden in mid-June. At this meeting, he might feel cornered and confide in the U.S., thereby the process could develop quite differently. Erdoğan, however, has made himself very unpopular in the U.S. because of his statements about Israeli attacks against Gaza.
Erdoğan now has the option of submitting himself to U.S. command in order to save himself. My guess is that he will go along with the U.S. plans because otherwise the current circumstances would mean his complete extinction. If this is true, then it is also not a coincidence that Sedat Peker is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), after all, the UAE is an ally of the US.
How do you evaluate the reactions of the chairwoman of the İyi Party, Meral Akşener, to Sedat Peker's revelations?
Meral Akşener goes by the code name Asena. This name was given to her by Abdullah Çatlı. And who was appointed interior minister after Ağar? Meral Akşener. These two facts prove the connection between them. Her own and her party's stance on the Kurdish issue are no different from that of the MHP.
The attacks on the Medya Defense Zones are taking place with the approval of the USA. Does the Turkish state want to use its last chance here?
Without the approval of the USA, the Turkish state could not do this at all. There are different developments in the Middle East at the moment. For example, there are very recent developments in relations between the U.S. and Iran. The ice is also melting between the U.S. and Russia. Does Erdoğan not see these developments? He sees them, and since he has no other option left, he submits to the hegemony of the U.S. and NATO.
What led to the breakdown of negotiations between the Turkish state and the representative of the Kurdish people, Abdullah Öcalan, and the Kurdish Liberation Movement?
The reason for this was that the state made three demands: First, the dissolution of the three cantons formed in northern Syria, Kobanê, Efrîn and Qamişlo. Second, the participation of the People's Defense Forces YPG in the FSA (Free Syrian Army), which is completely under the control of the Turkish state. Third, a declaration of war against Syria. These three demands of the Turkish state contradicted the strategy of the PKK and Öcalan and accordingly played an important role in the breakdown of the negotiations. It could already be foreseen at that time that the rejection of the demands in this process could lead to war.
The IS attacks and the state's plans to crush the revolution in Rojava both began on September 14, 2014. An IS leader captured during the Kobanê resistance later said, "Our target was actually Damascus, but at the request of the Turkish president, we made Kobanê our priority target." That was the defeat of IS. From then on, the loss of IS-controlled areas began.
After that, toward the end of 2014, Erdoğan reached a secret understanding with the people of Ergenekon10 and the MHP. Before that, until the end of 2013, there had been a coalition with the Fetullah Gülen community. You know, when political differences arose between them in the distribution struggle, the December 17-25 operations began. Following that, Erdoğan entered into an alliance with parts of Ergenekon, the MHP and Perinçek's supporters. As a result, the Dolmabahçe Agreement was not recognized and the war of annihilation against Kurdistan began.
This article was first published in the July/August 2021 edition of the Kurdistan Report.
1 The Unity and Progress Committee (Ottoman: İttihâd ve Terakkî Cem'iyeti), also known as the Ittihadists, was a political organization in the Ottoman Empire. It was the driving force behind the 1908 constitutional revolution and the Armenian genocide. It ruled with brief interruption from 1908 to 1918 and was the most powerful and long-lived party of the Young Turk movement.
2 The Teşkilât-ı Mahşûşa (English: Special Organization) was a mixture of intelligence and guerrilla organization of the Committee for Unity and Progress (İttihâd ve Terakkî Cemiyeti) in the Ottoman Empire.
3 Turan today refers to the original settlement area of the Turkic peoples in Central Asia. The word has a Panturkic ideological connotation: It denotes a state - symbolized by the Kızıl Elma ("red apple" or in English also "golden apple") - in which all Turks of the world are supposedly united.
4 Serhildan is made up of the Kurdish words ser, meaning "head," and hildan, meaning "to raise". Serhildan thus literally means "to raise one's head" and has the meaning " revolt" or "uprising.
5 The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Yekitîya Niştimanîya Kurdistan, YNK) is a Kurdish party in South Kurdistan (North Iraq). The party forms the opposition to the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party). Over time, the party moved closer and closer to the political center, so that today it represents a program that can be described as social democratic by Western standards.
6 The Party of the Right Way (Doğru Yol Partisi, DYP) was a center-right Turkish party founded in 1983 by Süleyman Demirel as a successor to his former Justice Party (Adalet Partisi, AP). In 2007, it was renamed the Democratic Party (DP) (in reference to the historic Democratic Party of 1946, the predecessor of the AP).
7 The Sosyaldemokrat Halkçı Parti, SHP (Social Democratic Populist Party) was a Turkish party founded after the closure of the Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP) during the 1980 military coup to win over CHP voters. It is was founded by merging the Halkçı Parti and Sosyal Demokrasi Partisi on November 3, 1985. The party emblem featured six arrows surrounded by olive branches. The Sosyaldemokrat Halkçı Parti merged with the re-established CHP on February 18, 1995.
8 Mehmet Ağar, Turkey's former chief of police and ex-minister of justice. As interior minister, Ağar was involved in the so-called Susurluk scandal, which exposed the cooperation between the state and organized crime.
9 Convicted murderer and mafia boss. After Çakıcı had been repeatedly visited in prison by the MİT intelligence service and MHP Chairman Bahçeli, he was pardoned and released in 2020 on the government's orders.
10 The Ergenekon group is considered a circle of ultranationalist Kemalists organized within the military and the so-called deep state. The AKP initially tried to eliminate this group with the Ergenekon trials between 2007 and 2013 because it was seen as a threat to its own power. However, after the rift with the Gülen Order, the AKP sought to close ranks with Ergenekon. Starting in 2016, numerous members of the group were released from prison. Since then, there has been talk of an unofficial power alliance between the AKP, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Ergenekon group at the head of the Turkish state.