A powerful psychodrama is illustrating the kleptocratic face of political Islam for the Turkish people and the world.
The revelations of Turkey’s most notorious mob boss, Sedat Peker, have made Ankara’s open secrets even more open: bribery, murder, political assassination, corruption, rape, drug smuggling, arms shipments to jihadists in Syria and torture and violence to silence the opposition.
Peker, a staunch supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whom he calls “brother Tayyip,” began to reveal his secrets in early May when he launched a personal feud with Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu. Since then, he has uploaded 10 videos to YouTube, which have been collectively viewed more than 100 million times at last count.
Peker’s videos have prima facie credibility. He is a convicted crime boss who has been living abroad since 2019. He claims that Turkey offered Morocco a batch of Turkish-made Bayraktar TB-2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles either for half price or for free in exchange for his extradition. He praised the Moroccan ruler, King Muhammad VI, for honoring a principle passed down by his father, which is to never extradite anyone who defects to Morocco.
Peker left Morocco to seek refuge in the United Arab Emirates, and in mid-June, Turkey formally requested his extradition from that country as well. As there is no extradition treaty between Ankara and Abu Dhabi, the UAE has not responded to the request. In addition, Turkey and the UAE have been at odds in the past over Erdoğan’s rigid support for Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Islamist warriors in Libya.
Peker’s revelations are quite dark and scary even for a nation that is no stranger to the notion of the “deep state.” Peker’s case resembles that of Salvatore “Toto” Riina, the capo di tutti capi of the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, who was arrested in Palermo in 1993 and has since published his memoirs.
Peker alleges that former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s son, Erkam Yıldırım, was directly involved in drug trafficking via merchant fleet sailing from Venezuela to Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Mersin, and revealed dates when Yıldırım traveled to Venezuela. Yıldırım confirmed his travel but said he went there for charity purposes.
Peker further alleges that a woman who claimed to have been raped by the son of former Interior Minister Mehmet Ağar was later found dead and that the current interior minister once warned a criminal of his impending arrest, allowing him to flee.
Peker also revealed that he once ordered his gang to raid Turkey’s biggest newspaper, Hürriyet, at the government’s request; that his gang members once beat up an opposition member of parliament for the same reason; that a member of parliament who had insulted Erdoğan was tortured by his men at a police station; and that his group transferred money to gangs in Germany to assault opposition members there. The mobster also revealed the names of businessmen, police chiefs, judges, bureaucrats, investors and journalists he claims were involved in these dirty operations.
In a video posted on May 23, Peker said he tasked his brother, Atilla Peker, with killing Turkish Cypriot journalist Kutlu Adalı, a liberal, in 1996 upon a request from then-Interior Minister Ağar. Peker says his brother was unable to carry out the murder, though Adalı was indeed shot dead shortly afterward, in July 1996. Adalı’s assassination remains unsolved.
In his videos, Peker challenges Erdoğan’s government with the words “You will be defeated by a tripod and a camera,” though he has avoided challenging the Turkish president directly. A poll by researcher Yöneylem Sosyal Araştırmalar Merkezi revealed on May 26 that 52.6 percent of Turks think Peker’s revelations are true, with only 22.5 percent thinking the mob leader is slandering politicians for his own interests.
In November 2002, Erdoğan came to power mainly on his pledge to eradicate the “deep state” that had rattled the governments of the 1990s. Almost two decades later, Turks are seeing that the “deep state” has in fact flourished under Erdoğan’s Islamist government.
Burak Bekdil is an Ankara-based columnist. He regularly writes for the Gatestone Institute and Defense News, and is a fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is also a founder of, and associate editor at, the Ankara-based think tank Sigma.
This article was first published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.