Geopolitics

Fresh Accusations Of "Deep State" Crimes In Turkey

A recent investigation of unsolved political murders and forcibly evacuated villages in southeastern Turkey cites JITEM, a clandestine intel unit linked to the Turkish military.

Watching soldiers in Istanbul
Watching soldiers in Istanbul
Mesut Hasan Benli

KIZILTEPE - A legal investigation completed by the Kiziltepe Prosecutor’s Office in southeastern Turkey cites JITEM (an acronym for Gendarmerie Intelligence services) for “systematic” unsolved political murders and forced evacuation of villages in the area.

Although it is being accused of countless illegal acts over the years in eastern and southeastern Turkey, the JITEM’s existence has never been officially accepted by the military. There are ongoing trials with defendants who are widely suspected of being JITEM members, but the name of the organization has never been written in court documents.

This investigation by the Kiziltepe Prosecutor’s Office is focusing on retired colonel Hasan Atilla Ugur, who is also currently facing charges in the controversial Ergenekon case. Similarly that organization is considered a sort of “deep state” power, with hundreds of military personnel accused of being part of a clandestine ultra-national organization that had tried last decade to overthrow the current government led by AKP and Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan.

The local prosecutor’s office sent its latest findings report to the head prosecutor’s office at Diyarbakir. It includes the names of Ugur, who used to be the Kiziltepe Gendarmerie commander, and eight other soldiers, known as “Team Knife,” suspected in the unsolved murders and systematic evacuation of local villages during the 1990s. “It is understood that the matters of the unsolved murders, disappearances, eviction from the villages and torture were commonly committed during 1993-1996; therefore it is also sure that the illegal organization called the JITEM existed and continued its actions after 1990 despite claims otherwise.” The difference in this investigation is that it openly says the JITEM is responsible for the unsolved murders and the forced evictions of the villages.

The report says the anti-terrorism activity of the state was taken out of the legal boundaries at a certain period, and continues with the following statements: “It is a reality that formations organized by the public servants working at this field, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) foremost, killed or taken similar illegal actions such as murder under torture against the organization members, its supporters and sympathizers without due procedure.” The mentioned organization here is the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

The report goes on to say that the entire authority in the area was in the hands of military officials and the units under their command while the judicial and governmental personnel turned a blind eye to things. The JITEM acted not just with political motives but also for illegal financial gain, the report says.

“Violent actions like murdering people during interrogation and throwing bodies down wells cannot be explained as ‘anti-terrorism struggle.’ On the contrary, these are crimes of terrorism themselves,” the report says. “The possibility that this organization, which spent public money, committed serious crimes like systematic murder and torture…must be further investigated.”

Among the alleged crimes cited was one against Memduh Demir, a shepherd tending to his cattle in a rural area near Yücebag village on May 13, 1995. After a clash between Turkey security forces and the PKK, PKK member Bedri Kapan was wouned and captured. According to the testimonies of village guards, both Demir and Kapan were thrown to their deaths from a helicopter.

The Gendarmerie has denied any wrongdoing, and says that the villages were abandoned because the residents left on their own accord.

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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