Turkish Muslims:

The New Propaganda Victims


By Brian Glyn Williams

While it is a long held maxim that Turkey is "with" the West in the war on terrorism—especially after the 2003 Istanbul bombings—the invasion of Iraq has made anti-Americanism vogue in Turkey. Some Turks believe that Jews blew up the World Trade Center and that the United States has secret plans to invade Turkey in order to create a Kurdistan on its territory. Such sentiments are not strictly limited to an extremist fringe; this is best demonstrated by the fact that Hitler's Kavgam (Mein Kampf) and Metal Firtna (a Tom Clancy-esque book depicting the "inevitable" U.S. invasion of Turkey) recently became bestsellers in Turkey. It is also seen in the most expensive movie ever produced in Turkey, Valley of the Wolves Iraq, which features U.S. soldiers shooting up Iraqi weddings and harvesting Iraqi body parts for shipment to Tel Aviv. Similar sentiments have subsequently begun to appear on Turkish jihadi websites. While Turkish extremist websites were previously devoted almost exclusively to lionizing Chechen jihadis fighting the "Godless" Russians (often featuring footage of Russian vehicles hitting landmines and Chechen field commanders in action), Americans are now starring in the role of kafir (infidel) targets for Iraqi and Taliban mujahideen on Turkish websites.

Several sites, such as cihaderi.net, feature a page entitled "U.S. Roadkill" that displays gory images of slain and maimed U.S. soldiers in Iraq with blogger subtitles ecstatically boasting about "U.S. dogs and road meat who deserve a worse fate than merely being blown up." Other sites, often with a pro-Hezbollah and anti-Israeli slant that became more prevalent following the recent July-August conflict in Lebanon, feature American caskets, shots of Abu Ghraib and epitaphs to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (http://www.islamkalesi.com). In between the images of Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and stone throwing Palestinians, even more disturbing images are found. One of these images proclaims: "For those who watched Valley of the Wolves, here is a living legend (Osama bin Laden is featured next to a lion). We invite you to the Valley of the Wolves Afghanistan." Such calls appear to have been heeded. Pictures of Turkish shehits (martyrs) who left NATO-member Turkey to fight as jihadi volunteers against NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan seem to substantiate claims that Turks are being killed in Afghanistan (Khaleej Times, October 19). The Turkish jihadi site mucadele.com recently posted a jihadi epitaph for Zubeyr Kunyeli Ahmet, "our young Turk who was martyred in Afghanistan." The site takva.com similarly posted the jihadi epitaph of an Osman Ozkan from Bursa who "became a martyr fighting alongside the Taliban against the United States."

Also, the site kudusyolu.com recently described the "martyrdom" of Bilal Yaldizci who "traveled to Pakistan for schooling" before joining the mujahideen in dangerous operations in the Hindu Kush. There he was martyred in combat before becoming a cause celebre on Turkish Islamist websites which feature songs in his honor. Yaldizci's final letter chastising his parents for pushing him to succeed in work and school instead of protecting his fellow Muslims reappeared on many Turkish sites which eulogized him (http://www.acizane.com). The case of Bilal Yaldizci is interesting in that the Turkish press previously reported the existence of a little known network of "Afghan-Turks" who fought against the Soviets in the 1980s (Turkish Daily News, October 17, 2001). The fact that the first Turkish volunteer mujahid to die in this struggle was also named Bilal Yaldizci might indicate that the recent martyr's name is a laqab or kunya (nom de guerre) and not his real name.

Most recently, the jihadi site mucadele.com, which features a video clip of the famous Iraqi sniper Juba and images of Bush being beheaded by al-Qaeda in Iraq, has a full page jihadi epitaph to a Turk named Abu Muhammad Umar. Umar was blown up in a filmed suicide bombing against a CIA base (the photographs of his suicide attack are on the site, entitled "Turkish Mujahideen Martyred in Operation Against CIA Base") (http://forum.mucadele.com). His epitaph provides some insight into the world of Turks who reject their country's secular values and join the jihadis who have ironically enough beheaded Turkish hostages in both Iraq and Afghanistan (usually truck drivers or engineers working for the "puppet" governments of Hamid Karzai or Nuri al-Maliki).

The epitaph read, "The harm he delivered [in his suicide attack on the CIA] is so big the Americans find it is unspeakable. In the name of Creator, on January 2006 Abu Muhammad Umar left his four children and wife to elevate Allah's religion and he went to Iraq to share the torture and the misery of his brothers and to have revenge against the kafirs (infidels). Every time he'd previously watched jihad videos his hate grew bigger and bigger. He used to cry when he saw the women being raped on the videos. He used to cry and say 'They are no different from my wife and sister. These disgusting dogs are touching my namuz (pride in one's ability to protect women, homeland and faith). I have to go kill them for revenge.' While watching these videos his hatred grew and whenever he saw the explosions and dead American soldiers he used to shout Allahu Akbar (God is Great) and bang the table...Everywhere he went he talked about jihad and how much he loved Sheikh Osama [bin Laden]...He used to tell his kids about heaven and he wanted them to know the infidel. He used to tell them that they need to kill infidels when they grow up…Seeing his brothers being tortured and the unfairness he said 'It can't continue! I must blow myself up.' And he did it, our brother Abu Muhammad Umar did what he said he would do. May God accept him."

While the participation of Turks in jihad operations against the United States is certainly a dangerous development, it is still a fringe phenomenon and there are many that value American culture, even if it is not as trendy as it used to be before the Iraq invasion. As in the case of Turkish jihadis fighting Russians in Chechnya, their numbers are few and in the case of Afghanistan far outweighed by Turkey's participation in ISAF, NATO and the Karzai government's building projects (Terrorism Monitor, April 7, 2005). Nevertheless, they are an example of the unexpected public relations fall-out stemming from the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and the revulsion many Turks felt at the Abu Ghraib images. Such sentiments can be channeled by the growing number of Turkish Islamists into anti-American jihad operations that have cost both Turkish and American lives (Insight Turkey, January-March).

Dr. Brian Glyn Williams is assistant professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

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