Turkish President Erdoğan slams New York Times over ISIL story
ANKARA / Tolga Tanış - WASHINGTON
Erdoğan lashed out at the photo choice for the New York Times story as an operation of 'perception management.' AA PhotoRejecting the term “Islamic terrorism,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed the New York Times for a recent story claiming Turkey is one of the biggest sources of recruits for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants.
“A newspaper used a photo yesterday, showing us leaving the Hacı Bayram Mosque [in Ankara]. They used this photo for a story about ISIL. With the lightest expression, this is shamelessness, sordidness and ignobleness,” Erdoğan said while addressing the Chamber of Turkish Tradesmen and Craftsmen’s (TESK) general assembly on Sept. 17.
The New York Times reported that some 100 people have joined the ranks of ISIL from the Hacı Bayram Veli Mosque in Ankara, indicating that its locals tried to approach Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to raise the issue of ISIL recruitment when the two went to the historic mosque in the neighborhood.
“We are the country that has paid the heaviest price while fighting terrorism,” he added, referring to Turkey’s 30-year struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been instrumental in stopping ISIL’s advance on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq.
“The murders and mass killings were ignored by several countries and others even supported this terrorism. They now understand – too late – that one day such terrorism would turn its gun against them,” Erdoğan said.
The Turkish president then responded to recent criticism on Ankara’s conduct regarding ISIL violence in Syria and Iraq.
“Turkey is against terrorism of all kinds indiscriminately. We have never accepted the concept of ‘Islamic terrorism.’ Nobody can ascribe terrorism to Islam, which is a religion of peace. We have never accepted concepts like Sunni or Shiite terrorism. We’re members of a religion that rejects sectarianism,” Erdoğan said.
He also slammed recent media reports that implicated Ankara as being written with a particular “purpose.”
“Some international media outlets try to equate Turkey with terrorism. There is no such thing as Turkey offering weapons and medical aid to terrorist groups,” he noted.
Erdoğan suggested that an operation of “perception management” has been launched by "some circles" and said he would raise the issue during his meetings with world leaders on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meetings next week.
In a Sept. 17 statement to Hürriyet, New York Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy stood behind the stories. "Both stories in question were thoroughly reported and sourced and we feel speak for themselves," Murphy said.
Asked whether The Times is concerned about the security of Ceylan Yeğinsu, the Times' correspondent in Turkey, due to the smear campaign started by some media outlets in Turkey following Erdoğan's remarks, Murphy said: "We are of course concerned any time the security of one of our correspondents is at issue. We have confidence that Turkish authorities will ensure the security of a Times correspondent doing her job."
The Times also later posted a correction related to the photo at the end of the story, stating: “A picture with an earlier version of this article, which showed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu leaving a mosque in August, was published in error. Neither that mosque nor the president’s visit were related to the recruiting of ISIS [ISIL] fighters described in the article.”
Meanwhile, President Erdoğan also criticized the credit rating agencies that have given negative evaluations of the Turkish economy, suggesting that their views were based on "political motives, rather than economic realities."
“We pay them money; we pay an annual fee to them. Turkey may cut its ties with two more of them; we didn't develop our economy with their help,” he said.