ISIL conquest: Coming soon to Istanbul?

ISIL conquest: Coming soon to Istanbul?

The so-called “Islamic State” of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is known not only for its wanton violence but also its slick videos. Yesterday, they launched a new one, a 7-min short clip, which was, like most other ISIL productions, filmed in Raqqa, the capital of the “Caliphate.” But there was something new: The film was in Turkish, and the speaker was a fluent Turkish speaker, apparently a native of Turkey. He was a 50-something-year-old man with a long beard, an AK-47, and two younger comrades in arms. And he had an important message to give: Soon, Istanbul would be “conquered” by the armies of the “Caliph.”
Well, the same armies could not even get Kobane, which is in Northern Syria, so we can hope to be safe in Istanbul for the foreseeable future. Yet still, the video was important to show how ISIL sees Turkey, the current government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

The speaker of the film, who did not identify himself, first gave a brief history of “our people,” meaning the Turks. We were good soldiers under the Abbasid Caliphate, and served Islam nicely, he explained, “but then some of us went astray.” For example, “some of us began worshipping tombs.” This was a reference to the veneration of shrines, which is central not only in Shiite Islam but also Sufism, which is integral to Sunnism in the Ottoman Empire (no wonder the Ottomans were condemned for “polytheism” by ISIL’s forerunners two centuries ago).

Other heresies of the Turks included, according to our speaker, “establishing laws other than those of Allah.” This sentence appeared with a photo of the Turkish parliament, which makes “man-made laws.” The implied excommunication was not just for Republican Turkey, but even the late Ottoman Empire, which convened its first legislative parliament in 1876. 

After these opening lines, the speaker gave us a crash course in near history:

“Then secular [Mustafa] Kemal Atatürk came, imposing infidelity on us. Then came traitor [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, who did not rule by Allah’s Sharia. He befriended America, the Jews, the Crusaders, the atheist PKK and Atatürk’s secular friends, which is the Free Syrian Army [FSA].” 

Now, how the FSA, the standard bearer of the moderate Syrian opposition, could be “Atatürk’s secular friends” is beyond me. But I do get the point: Everything and everybody that stands in ISIL’s way is a part of a giant collation of evil forces. Among them are President Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP (Justice and Development Party), especially after opening Turkish airspace to U.S. air forces.

It is notable that ISIL, in this video and in other publications, condemns the “atheist PKK” as an ally of Erdoğan, whereas both the PKK, and some commentators in Turkey and the West, rather see ISIL as an ally of Erdoğan’s against the PKK. The reality, apparently, is much more complicated by such simple lines of propaganda. 

Finally, the ISIL speaker presents us a bleak future:

“Soon, Turkey’s east will be dominated by the atheist PKK, and the West will be dominated by the Crusaders. They will kill children, rape women, and enslave you. [Hence] O people of Turkey; before [it is] too late, you should rise up and fight against these atheists, these Crusaders and these traitors. You should also repent. You should condemn democracy, secularism, human-made laws, tomb-worshipping and other devils.” 

And if we don’t do this, we are in trouble. We should “wait for humiliation on Earth, before punishment in the afterlife.” And ISIL is eager to bring that earthly “humiliation” in the name of God.