What is going on right now in Turkey around a mafia leader?
Mafia leader Sedat Peker, 49, has fallen out of favour with the governing AKP, went abroad, and started to publish Youtube videos with allegations and accusations towards certain people from the government, the state and their relatives.
Peker has been well-known in Turkey since the 90s, a period when the state has overwhelmingly utilized mafia gangs as repression apparatuses. Getting released from prison in 2014, Peker soon started to publicly support Erdoğan, his governing AKP and coalition member, MHP (Nationalist Movement Party, the major fascist party in Turkey). Over the next three years, the mafia boss organized various mass demonstrations throughout the country to support the government policies.
In 2020, Peker fell out of favour with certain cliques inside the AKP and the state, and thus, not feeling secure, went abroad. Travelling through Montenegro, Kosovo, Morocco the mafia leader finally fled to the United Arab Emirates. It is here that, on May 2nd, Peker started releasing Youtube videos talking about “the injustice towards him”. Since then, 9 videos have been released, and the content has gradually become revealing inside information about certain criminalistic activities in which government or state officials or their relatives are involved. As of now, the Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu, who is regarded as the leader of one of the cliques inside the AKP, seems to be the main target of Peker’s allegations of a wide range from state-organised murders to drug trafficking.
Who is this Sedat Peker?
Sedat Peker is a typical fascist mafia leader in Turkey. He is not one of those that belong to the older generation of mafia men, who were involved in the fascist terror that swept the country in the 1970’s against the socialist movement. He was born in 1971, and belonged to a family that comes from the province of Rize, the hometown of R. T. Erdoğan.
He became active in the 1990’s, a decade in which unidentified murders, mafia assaults, threats and abductions were very common, mostly against the Kurdish movement, revolutionary groups and left-wing intellectuals. Peker, who came to be known as an “ülkücü” (the term used by the fascists to identify themselves in Turkey) mafia man in this period, was talented in using the arising opportunities. He was involved in the Turkish Gladio counter-guerrilla organisation.
The first major lawsuit against him was connected with the murdering of a smuggler in Rize in 1997. Two of his men were sentenced, while he was acquitted. The same year he was involved in the killing of a barman in İstanbul. Several similar cases soon followed. After these accumulated to a certain extent, he left Turkey and returned seven months later, as a result of a reconciliation with the Police. He stayed in prison for only eight months. It is a remarkable fact that most of his criminal activities took place during the terms of Mehmet Ağar and Meral Akşener as Ministers of Interior, putting the two into a controversial position after Peker’s disclosures. Especially Akşener, now the leader of a right-wing opposition party allied with CHP (the Republican People’s Party, the main opposition social-democrat party), has been implied by Peker to have collaborated with him in the 90’s related with the barman murder.
Continuing his activities, he was arrested once again in 2004, along with other mafia men, who were also connected with MHP. He was released ten years later, in 2014. He immediately declared that he will keep pace with the political developments in the country.
And soon came his support for the government and the governing party, AKP. He organised public gatherings for this purpose. Some of these gatherings took the form of political rallies, in which he made speeches to support the government. He openly declared his adoration for President Erdoğan and even met with him once. Meanwhile, he became popular among Erdoğan’s favourite celebrities involving prominent singers, actors, journalists and received the most benevolent businessman award from the Milliyet daily newspaper belonging to the mass bourgeois media.
He made a habit of threatening different sections of the opposition. In one of his public speeches he threatened the academics, who signed a petition for stopping the government’s assaults in the Kurdish provinces, by saying that “their blood will flow and we will bathe in their blood.” In his recent videos, he claims that “he did not mean it.” He also publicly demonstrated his ties with certain religious sects that are closely connected with AKP. He went as far as to say that AKP supporters should immediately take up arms, in order to prevent a possible victory of the opposition in the 2019 elections.
Things began to turn sour for him in late 2018. His relations with the government circles weakened, especially with the release from prison of another fascist mafia leader and major Gladio personality, named Alaattin Çakıcı. Peker was about to be interned again, but he went abroad in 2020.
What has Peker said until now?
The videos are generally around 1 hour, and are organised in two parts. For the first 40 minutes, Peker goes on with political propaganda, mainly to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of Turkey’s public opinion who is at the very least skeptical towards Erdoğan—and, thus, towards Peker himself who has been his supporter. These intros are as important as the allegations, because this is the part where Peker tries to locate himself in the ever-changing map of political alliances in Turkey.
Here is a list of the important allegations by Peker:
.Erdoğan’s son-in-law and ex-Minister of Finance, Berat Albayrak, as the head of the “Pelicans” clique inside AKP, is in rivalry with the current Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu. Peker sided with Soylu, which led to the following repressive measures against Peker, ultimately resulting in his leaving the country.
.Ex-Minister of Interior, Mehmet Ağar, who is publicly known for his ties with mafia and gang organisations, also known as the political chief of the 90s’ murders and had been prefunctorily imprisoned before for his crimes, is used for the operations against Peker by the “Pelicans” clique.
.Last year, 4.900 kg of cocaine, headed towards Turkey, was captured in Colombia. No investigation was run. Peker insinuates that this drug trafficking is related with certain government and state officials, non-official allies like former Minister of Interior Mehmet Ağar, and pro-government business people.
.Peker also alleges that the drug route has changed recently. The new route is from Venezuela to Turkey, as the DEA is not active in the Bolivarian Republic. According to Peker, Erkam Yıldırım, the son of the last Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım (Prime Ministry no longer exists in the current regime of Turkey), is the middleman in this trade—allegedly also because the drug traffickers hold an “inappropriate video” of him. Yıldırım visited Venezuela in late 2020 to organise the new route.
.Peker alleges that the chief of financial operations for the drug trafficking is Halil Falyalı, a businessman known as the owner of many hotels and casinos in Northern Cyprus and who is apparently close to the President of Northern Cyprus, Ersin Tatar, as well as Turkish fascists. Mehmet Ağar is also involved in the network.
.The Bodrum port belonged to Mubariz Mansimov, a businessman from Azerbaijan. Mansimov was accused of being related with the Fethullah Gülen movement, was imprisoned, and Mehmet Ağar and his associates took possession of the port.
.Mehmet Ağar’s son Tolga Ağar, who is an MP for the governing AKP, is accused of raping a woman journalist from Kyrgyzstan living in Turkey, the woman reports the incidents and is found dead the following day, and Peker alleges that the gendarmerie was also involved to cover the crime in favour of Tolga Ağar.
.Peker confesses that his men beat up an ex-MP from the governing AKP, Feyzi İşbaşaran, inside a police station, upon the request of an AKP official.
.Peker also confesses that his men were involved in the raid against the newspaper Hürriyet in 2015, again upon the request of an AKP official.
.Peker alleges that he has supported the current Minister of Interior, Süleyman Soylu, since his early days in politics in the 90s, and Soylu has given himself police officers as bodyguards until recently, including his trips abroad.
.Süleyman Soylu, the current Minister of Interior, uses his official title and influence to take bribes and commissions from businesses and blackmails rich people, ironically including the chairman of Masak, the Commission for Investigation of Financial Crimes, with falsifying ties with the Gülen movement and taking security measures.
.Süleyman Soylu has the agenda to become the next president after Erdoğan, and runs physical surveillance of key officials close to Erdoğan.
.Peker confesses that he was personally involved in the murder of Cypriot journalist Kutlu Adalı, organised by Turkish state. He also confesses that the murder of journalist Uğur Mumcu in 1993 was perpetrated by Mehmet Ağar and his clique.
.Peker alleges that a private security company close to the government sent weapons to Al Nusra in Syria using his campaign to arm the Turkomans within the Syria jihadist opposition.
What are the international dimensions of this issue?
In the seventh video released on May 23, Peker accused former Interior Minister Mehmet Ağar, of organizing Turkish Cypriot journalist Kutlu Adalı’s killing in 1996. Adalı, a critic of President Denktaş of Northern Cyprus, who was working for the Yeni Düzen (New Order) newspaper at the time of his killing, was writing about the smuggling of historical artifacts from the St. Barnabas monastery and the icon museum and the involvement of the Directorate of Civil Defense Organization, which carried out a counter-guerrilla mission by the Northern Cyprus state.
Peker reveals in the video that, in a meeting with Ağar in an Ankara hotel, his brother Atilla Peker was assigned to carry out the shooting of Adalı and yet the murder was ultimately carried out by some other group.
Sedat Peker’s brother Atilla Peker stated that his voluntary statements on the Adalı killing while in police detention were not taken under record, but a confession letter was sent to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in southwestern province of Fethiye. The letter covers the confession of Atilla Peker in being assigned to the shooting and travelling to Cyprus with Korkut Eken, an ex-soldier, intelligence officer and unconventional warfare specialist led by the then-Interior Minister Ağar. In the letter, Attila Peker wrote about detailed events and concrete evidence about how the operation was conducted by Eken, how it was aborted for some reason and how Eken a few months later had told him that “they handled” the Cyprus issue. In his admissions Atilla Peker claims that his involvement and assignment in the Northern Cyprus issues were related with combatting the PKK presence at the island and he was unaware that it was about Kutlu Adalı’s case.
The Adalı assassination in 1996, was one of the many organised crimes committed by the counter guerilla organization of Turkish Republic governments in that period. There has been more deferred disclosures of Adalı murder revealing the involvement of at least four fascist gang members from Turkey assigned by the command post of the Turkish counter guerilla.
Also there are many complementary arguments telling that there was no thorough investigation into the murder of Kutlu Adalı at the time, and that the police officer assigned to investigate the case did not even take fingerprints from Adalı’s house. That particular police officer who was in charge back at that time is now the head of the Police Department in Northern Cyprus.
The murder of the Cypriot journalist and the whole process behind it is a revelation of Turkey’s relations with Northern Cyprus, including the fact that Turkey is an occupying force in Cyprus, violating the sovereignty of Cypriot people and also using the state of Northern Cyprus for its counter guerilla operations.
Sedat Peker is also mentioning that Turkey is taking part in the international drug trafficking networks and has become the main hub of cocaine transfer from Colombia to Europe, on top of being a major transit location for the transfer of heroin from Afghanistan over the southern (Balkan) route. We should note that despite the official figures showing that the general rate of drug use in Turkey is lower when compared to the European countries, there has been a worrying rise in the past decades. Turkey is one of the countries in which the highest amount of drugs are seized and this has an implication of the amount used as well. Every transit country on this route is also home to drug use. It is reported that Mediterranean ports are points of entry for cocaine from Latin America to Europe, Azerbaijan, Iraq and so forth. So what Sedat Peker says is nothing new, but the allegations against the government officials being behind this traffic require jurisdictional inspection.
In what economical-political context is this story taking place?
Turkey has reached the limits of rapid and artificial economic growth of the 2000s and 2010s. This growth has been based on the privatization of profitable public enterprises, hot cash inflows, cooperation with Gulf countries, support from the European Union, and so forth. However, its economy started to decline as of 2013-4. The country is going through a very harsh economic crisis, manifested by a huge amount of foreign debt in foreign currencies, instability, the decline in productive capacity and negative reserves in its treasury. The impact of this crisis was doubled when the pandemic settled in, in 2020.
Unemployment has surpassed 25%, contrary to the manipulated official figures, corresponding to one out of every three people under the age of 35 (some of whom lived their entire life under AKP’s rule). Deep injustices, inequality in income distribution, decrease in purchasing power, devaluation of the Turkish Lira are also among chronic problems which create a big frustration and rage in the society, undermining the public support for AKP.
The failure of the Neo-Ottoman policy and mistrust towards Erdoğan among the peoples of the Middle East especially after the so-called Arab Spring also undermines his power. The government is trying to divert this negative attitude away from itself by resorting to even greater reactionary measures, to a nationalist provocative discourse and such actions. However, the economic collapse, as well as the political crisis seriously weakened the ruling power of AKP, creating a very fragile situation. This fragility has been challenged by AKP together with its alliance with the fascist MHP since 2018, albeit leading to its dependency on its smaller partner. On the other hand, the opposition headed by the social democrat CHP has strengthened its alliance with the ultra-nationalist Good Party (İYİP) which is increasingly representing the right-wing voters that are estranged from AKP mainly due to economic reasons.
Two former ministers of Erdoğan’s governments, representing Turkish political circles in favour of a more compliant policy towards Western imperialism, have joined the opposition and started to voice the reaction against the personal rule of Erdoğan while defending the restoration of AKP to its “factory defaults”, implying the period until 2013 and especially up to the establishment of the presidential system. However, all these political actors seek the opportunity to get an upper hand by hitting one anothers’ vulnerabilities.
We should add to this picture that the government has demonstrated one of the worst examples of mismanagement of the pandemic and implemented irrational measures, solely aiming to rescue the capitalist class.
Moreover, Sedat Peker’s video-statements came in a period when the rivalry between different wings of the İslamic-nationalist alliance, including their media organs, bureaucrats and apparatuses, has been heating up, shaking the grounds of AKP. We can interpret that if the controlling capacity of Erdoğan had not weakened to this degree, Sedat Peker would probably not appear to make these counter-statements. However, the enormous support AKP continues to give to the capitalist class in Turkey is the reason why this party can still remain in power. By abusing the pandemic conditions, massive incentives were provided to the business-owners, which constituted a transfer of resources from the working class to the capitalists. Even bourgeois institutions such as the IMF have noted that Turkey has been one of the countries that provided the least support to its people during this period. The abstention from making public expenditures to relieve the economic pressure on the people has even resulted in Turkey becoming one of the three countries achieving economic growth in 2020.
Erdoğan is now trying to warm up the relationship with the Euro-Atlantic pact, which was damaged on occasions such as the refugee crisis, competition over Eastern Mediterranean energy resources, the redistribution of power in Libya and Syria, etc., and negotiating with Biden, Israel and EU officers. All this is the reason why despite all its unpredictability and fundamentalist attitudes, Erdoğan’s government is still preferred by the domestic and international capital.
What is the response of the ruling political coalition to Peker’s allegations?
First of all, it should be taken into consideration that the governing party, AKP, is indeed a coalition of various reactionary forces. It is not a secret that a good number of Islamist, nationalist, liberal cliques have been cooperating or struggling within the AKP since the very beginning of this political project. Since 2015, the AKP is not able to form a government by itself but is obliged to rely on the alliance with the fascist MHP, which resulted in a complex synthesis of Islamists with nationalists at all levels. It is mostly thanks to this synthesis that several forgotten figures from the mafia or counter-guerrilla once again started to play a seemingly major political role.
Meanwhile, sub-coalitions were formed around efficient people such as Berat Albayrak, Erdoğan’s son-in-law who has formerly been the Minister of Energy and then Economy, and Süleyman Soylu, the current Minister of Internal Affairs. The non-reconcilable struggle between Albayrak and Soylu is a well-known fact that revealed itself even with declarations of resignation. Both trying to get Erdoğan on his own side through such challenges, Soylu succeeded in keeping his post while Albayrak had to finally withdraw last year. It is under the burden of such an internal tension that Erdoğan is trying to govern his coalition and the country.
Probably due to the fragility of his coalition, it took nearly a month for Erdoğan to express a clear position against Peker’s videos. While the public discussion began as early as the broadcasting of the first video on May, 2, AKP cadres and the affiliated mainstream media carefully avoided taking a clear position for weeks. Within these weeks, Süleyman Soylu, directly addressed by the accusations of Peker, showed up in two live TV broadcasts, avoiding, by all means, to respond to the questions addressed but trying to promote his deeds as the interior minister in the struggle against terror and mafia.
It was finally on May 28, nearly a month after Peker’s first video, that Erdoğan clearly declared his position. According to his analysis, the Turkish government was threatened by foreign powers who were not happy with the so-called patriotic deeds of the AKP. Opposition parties and Peker, the latter being accused of being a foreign spy, were carrying out a project to dethrone Erdoğan by all means. The confirmation of this thesis by Erdoğan encouraged all the political figures whose illegal activities are exposed by Peker’s accusations to avoid empirical responses about the accusations and to point out the possible political outcomes of these accusations that threaten the legitimacy of the coalition in power.
However, it would not be surprising for a public poll to be held nowadays to find out that a much greater majority of Turkish people find Peker’s accusations more convincing and coherent than the agitated responses expressed by the governing coalition.
What has been the response of the bourgeois opposition?
Since the 2019 municipal elections, the Erdoğan government and its nationalist ally MHP have been confronted with a broad bourgeois oppositional alliance, the so-called Nation Alliance, which consists of social democratic, nationalist, religious parties and former AKP cadres, defending moderacy against Erdoğan’s radical one-man moves. Pro-Kurdish HDP is implicitly supporting this pact, too. Part of this alliance has seats in the parliament and part of it is outside.
When the videos were out, the Nation Alliance noticed that Peker’s allegations would do harm to the AKP, and they built their strategy on this.
We can say that the Nation Alliance benefited from this period, which also reflects on the outcomes of some election polls. However, one should keep in mind that some of Peker’s allegations such as the weapons carried to jihadist organizations including Al-Nusra in Syria, are also to blame some of the current opposition members who were former AKP cadres, ministers, MPs.
Within the Nation Alliance, the fascist Good Party, which split with MHP in 2017, benefited the most from Peker’s broadcasts, increasing its popularity among the masses. This party, which has a reactionary and ultra-nationalist character and has no difference from its predecessor in essence, has boldened its position in the opposition. They managed to show themselves “clean”, although the cadres of the Good Party had organic ties with counter-guerrilla organizations in the past, ties which probably persist today as well. Of course, this popularity is based on an illusion and is conjunctural.
The main reason why the country is dealing with all the dirty affairs of these criminals is that the secular and public good oriented base of this Republic is totally undermined, giving way to all types of illegal organizations such as religious sects, cults and gangs intertwined with economic networks, either looters or legal businesses. However, the bourgeois opposition is endorsing this line of religious discourse and actions along with the economic structure created by AKP. For example, in the middle of all these, the inauguration of the controversial Taksim Mosque, which was the revenge of the Gezi Resistance of 2013 for the AKP government, was lauded by prominent actors of the opposition such as the Istanbul Mayor (CHP), the Good Party leadership, the Felicity Party, and the parties founded by ex-AKP members.
The opposition is calling the prosecutors to interrogate Peker’s allegations, which they know will be in vain and is actually only for show, as the judicial system is in the hands of the AKP. On top of that, calling for early elections is the main reaction of the Nation Alliance. They are extremely afraid of the people’s reaction to these events that might be taken to the streets or public spheres, which is why they are asking their voters to remain silent and wait for the elections. Yet this is also a call in vain, as the corrupt electoral system is also in the hands of Erdoğan. All they expect is the dissolution of AKP as a coalition of interest groups or that imperialist powers will discard AKP for good. They are well aware that the other option, which is the rise of the working people’s struggle will afflict their own political legitimacy as well as that of the bourgeois order.
Finally, one can say that there are good grounds for an early election; however, any election to be held under these conditions, in which the working people are not politically organized, will result only in a restoration of the bourgeois order.
What is the position of the Communist Party of Turkey?
TKP is the only political party in Turkey that analyzes this issue from a Marxist perspective. We reject the presence of the so-called “deep state” that is mainly underlined in the discussions. In our opinion this is an approach that contradicts the position of the state in the capitalist social order, turning it into an untouchable, sacred taboo, as if the capitalist state existed eternally, extricating it from its class-context.
Some voices in the left mention the need to “clean” the state or “getting rid of the scum”. This approach, although seems good-willed, ignores the very crucial base-superstructure relationship. The fact that the capitalist state is always prone to such dirty, unlawful relations and nurturing criminal agents is not taken into account. Moreover, such an approach supports the idea that there might be a better, more ethical version of capitalism; which only resuscitates the order of exploitation and helps out the bourgeois politicians who promise to tame the “extremes” of capitalism and establish a rather moderate climate, without touching its essence.
Just because Sedat Peker, who had been an apparatus of the ruling party for years, is now confronting them with a seemingly honest posture, he cannot be seen as a hero. We are totally against this populist view. He indeed is uncovering some facts, but there is nothing that the working people can gain from the confessions of a fascist mafia leader.
Peker’s allegations of drug trafficking should be analyzed from a Marxist perspective. Drug trafficking is a form of capital accumulation. It is not possible to distinguish between “clean” and “dirty” monopolies, there is no sense categorizing pharma or energy monopolies as “clean” and drug cartels as “dirty”. There are no good or bad, ethical or unethical forms of exploitation.
It is the working people of this country who are most affected by the internal fight within the ruling power. While Peker was publishing these videos and the focus of politics was his allegations, the health needs of the people including vaccines were still unmet, the plunder of the environment increased, the inflation rate continued to rise. Working people organizing in workplaces, peasants resisting the looting of corporations, students struggling against AKP’s reactionary measures are tried to be isolated from the political crisis of the country. TKP asserts that these are all linked and should be challenged with a socialist oriented political front.
Analysis by TKP General Secretary @OkuyanKemal on the recent allegations by a fascist mafia leader and the arming of jihadists in Syria by AKP, via @TvCumhuriyet : "This is a colossal crime against humanity!" pic.twitter.com/cpUOMUDmC2
— TKP International (@tkpinter) June 8, 2021
This is why TKP is trying to warn our people not to be “hypnotized” by these videos. If the working people passively watch the fight going on and are forced to choose between the representatives of the bourgeois class, they will lose. We are urging the people to unite and organize for their own interests with steadfastness.
In the past few months, the AKP government practically banned political activity on the pretext of the pandemic, not allowing any public meeting at all. Daily life is increasingly being shaped according to İslamic traditions. They are aiming to diminish the legitimacy of defending one’s own rights. This is the real danger.
Instead of remaining stuck between the bourgeois government and the opposition, we are calling for an independent way out of this bankrupt system. We are organizing meetings and launching new District Houses (over 60 District Houses are present all around the country) in working-class neighborhoods, workplaces and universities to elicit people’s own struggle, which by no means can be held by some proxy-figures. Recently, some of our cadres were put under custody for distributing our leaflets or even for only taking pictures of our afiches, reflecting the fear of the government from any activity unmasking their crimes. And on the 5th of June, we called for a public gathering in İstanbul’s Beşiktaş to protest the tyranny of bosses, mafia and sects, which was banned by the district governor as its content was found “inappropriate”. We managed to show that we will not surrender to the arbitrary bans of government bureaucrats by keeping our word and organized our protest. On the 19th of June we called for a mass protest in the capital of the country Ankara, a meeting of thousands. We will continue our struggle until a new order, without exploitation, corruption and gangs is established.