Chefs falsely linked to ISIL serve kebab to journalists, Turkish officials
Ali Kayalar – ISTANBULA senior Turkish government official and his team hosted a group of journalists, mostly from the foreign outlets, Dec. 7 to brief them about the latest tensions with Russia, albeit at a less than ordinary venue for a confidential talk – a kebab house in the heart of such culinary treats in central Istanbul that was recently targeted in the Russian press.
According to the Turkish official, the pick of the venue itself aimed at relating the baseless nature of recent Russian claims over Turkey that extend all the way to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as the owners of the restaurant in Aksaray were recently falsely named in the Russian media as Islamic States of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) members, with a photo showing them with Bilal Erdoğan, the president’s son.
“God sent you here,” said İsmail Kember, one of the two owners, both of whom sport thick beards. “It is to show that we are not ISIL men,” he said.
“When this photo was taken, ISIL was not even around,” said Ali Kember, the other owner and brother to İsmail.
Russia Today quoted “Turkish social media” in a caption for the photo of Bilal Erdoğan and the brothers, recirculating claims that had already been shown to be false.
The Kember brothers, former musicians who say they swore off singing and playing the keyboard in 2000, call themselves as Turkish versions of “Cat Stevens,” referring to the former British pop star who converted to Islam, changing his name to Yusuf Islam.
Turkey and Russia have been at odds since the downing a Russian jet Nov. 24 for violating Turkish airspace. Since then, in addition to economic sanctions introduced by Russia, Moscow has directly accused Erdoğan’s family of being involved in illegal oil trading with ISIL, a claim that has been categorically dismissed by the president.
The senior Turkish official at the Aksaray briefing had further arguments on the matter.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has told Turkey that one of two trucks bombed by Russia and which appeared on documents presented to the press as ISIL vehicles smuggling oil to Turkey, belonged to the KRG itself, the source said. “The second one was not carrying oil at all,” the source said.
The number of people arrested while illegally crossing the Turkey-Syria border between Jan. 1, 2014, and Nov. 1, 2015, is 207,437, according to the source.
“In 2015, a substantial decrease was observed in fuel smuggling in parallel to enhanced border security,” the source said.
The volume of oil seized by Turkish officials fell from 21 million gallons in 2014 to 320,000 gallons so far this year, the source said, adding that this pointed at a decline in the illegal activity.
“The allegation that Turkey is not combating DAESH is a groundless one and Turkey has been taking a variety of measures since the first day DAESH threat became obvious,” the source said, using an Arabic acronym for the jihadist group.