Turkey concerned by return of Turkish ISIL fighters

Turkey concerned by return of Turkish ISIL fighters

Deniz Zeyrek NICOSIA
Turkey concerned by return of Turkish ISIL fighters

AP Photo

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said Turkey also has concerns regarding the return of its citizens after fighting alongside the extremist jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

Çavuşoğlu said there are currently 500-700 Turkish nationals who have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), expressing his concerns over their potential terrorist attacks after returning to the country and saying Turkey is also an open target of ISIL.

“A common concern about the foreign fighters is: What will happen when they return to their countries? We also have this concern,” he told a group of reporters traveling with him to Nicosia, the capital of Turkish Cyprus.

Çavuoğlu’s statement came a week after al-Qaeda linked terrorists carried out bloody attacks in Paris, killing 17 people. It has been learned that a French woman, Hayat Boumedienne, who is linked with the perpetrators of the attack, crossed into Syria via Turkey days before the attacks. This information has created doubts about the effectiveness of the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and its European counterparts, as well as the efficiency of Turkey’s border control system.  

“Every country is an open target of DAESH [the Arabic acronym for ISIL]. Turkey is as well. Turkey has always been a target of terror, no matter what measures are taken. It has been targeted by the DHKP-C [The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front], the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], al-Qaeda and IBDA-C [the Islamic Great East Raiders Front],” he said.

Underlining that Turkey had designated DAESH as a "merciless terrorist organization" that does not represent Islam in any way, Çavuşoğlu said, “Of course, a country that speaks like this is an open target of terror. We therefore have to be cautious and take the necessary measures.”

He added that around 500-700 Turkish nationals were fighting in ISIL, less than the number of those who joined ISIL from European countries.

ISIL is believed to have a total of more than 15,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.

No warrant on Boumedienne

Çavuşoğlu recalled that Boumedienne crossed into Syria through Turkey and that they provided this information to French officials even before being asked.

“This shows our sensitivity with regard to foreign fighters [crossing into Syria]. Turkey was accused from the very beginning, but we have provided the figures and measures we have taken. But as you see, although there are units deployed on every part of the 911 kilometer-long border, a passage [into Syria] can always be found,” he said. 

Turkey has so far deported 1,165 people and put an entry ban on 7,250 more, Çavuşoğlu said, dismissing Western media’s claims that “Turkey had to confess [to the passage of foreign fighters after the Boumedienne case].”

“There is no such thing.  How can I know whether she will join DAESH? If they have such intelligence, why didn’t they stop her before leaving France? Europe is hiding behind the Schengen Treaty. There were not any warrants for that woman. She was not blacklisted. Isn’t this [accusation] unfair?” he stated.

'Parallel structure' lobbying for Armenian genocide

Meanwhile, on the government’s fight against what it calls the "parallel structure," Çavuşoğlu again suggested that the Gülen movement was carrying out "lobbying efforts against Turkey everywhere in the world."

“They work hand in hand with members of the [U.S.] Congress and Senate in co-operation with the Armenian diaspora. They donate money to them. They ask them to pass resolutions against Turkey. This is all obvious. ‘There is no democracy in Turkey, only a dictatorship’ they claim,” he said.    

Calling these efforts a “perception operation” and explaining that these statements are not true, it is the duty of Turkish ambassadors abroad to correct this misinformation, Çavuşoğlu said the government was "taking measures against this.” 

‘We’ll be sorry if the US refuses to deport Gülen’

Explaining that a judicial process against Fethullah Gülen, current in self-exile in the U.S., is still underway and that the Justice Ministry will issue a red notice for him, Çavuşoğlu said he appreciated the ongoing co-operation regarding this issue with Washington.

“When our President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] raised the issue with President Barack Obama, they said ‘There should be a legal document, something concrete.’ Now the legal document is there. The Justice Ministry has issued its verdict. If there are steps that hinder our co-operation, that would make us upset. Let me say only this,” he said.  

'No differing views on no-fly zone'

On Turkey’s insistence for a no-fly zone and secure zones in Syria, Çavuşoğlu said he met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Brazil two weeks ago, where he suggested speeding up the process by including politicians into the talks, which have been carried out at the technical level for some time.

Biden has said he must have President Barack Obama’s consent to establish secure zones.

“We are talking about training and equipping the Free Syrian Army [FSA], about measures not to let Aleppo fall and avoiding [the regime’s] aerial attacks while fighting against DAESH. Establishing secure zones is not welcomed. There needs to be many forces deployed in the region. The main question is who will do this. But we do not have much different views on establishing a no-fly zone,” Biden said.