What are Turkey’s ultranationalists up to?

Mr. Bahceli, how can we mind our own business? We’re not living under normal circumstances.

Tuesdays are always lively days for politics.

Political parties convene for their group meetings and Party Chairs or Co-Chairs determine the political agenda for the upcoming days.

This week, Chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahceli, said to journalist Yildiz Yazicioglu, “You go mind your business” when she asked a question about the Sinan Ates assassination* following the MHP group meeting. In fact, Bahceli’s bodyguards removed Yazicioglu from the premises, knocking her about as they did so.

Sir, how can we mind our own business? We’re not living under normal circumstances.

Previously, in a group meeting, looking into the eyes of all the deputies in Parliament, their guests, the journalists broadcasting live, and thus the millions of citizens, Erdogan had called the women attending the Gezi Park Resistance** “sluts.” We had all sat around discussing this for days afterwards.

Had we been living in a normal country, each time Erdogan spoke into the microphones, we would have asked him: “How dare you call women such a thing?”

The nation’s Minister of the Interior needs to account for Sezgin Baran Korkmaz,*** his ties to drug cartels, the Marina, the ports, the cocaine,**** the deputy who received ten thousand dollars from Sedat Peker, and the Sedat Peker situation itself.***** Journalists would usually ask such questions…

In normal countries, journalists prepare investigative reports. They go after corruption in the country. They investigate murders. They make an effort to prevent torture, ill treatment, enforced disappearances of those in custody, the use of chemical weapons, and civilian deaths.

The hospitals, the post offices, the municipalities, the tax offices, the ministers, the undersecretaries, the photographs with the mafia, the thievery, the misfortunes…

The Kurds, the women, the children, the animals, the incarcerated, the sickly incarcerated, unemployment, hunger, politically motivated homicides, the hills and the dales, the olives, the construction sites, the workplace homicides, the LGBT…

Journalists ask questions — usually. They ask, in the name of the public, in the name of professional ethics, in the name of doing their jobs well, in the name of the livelihood they make from this work, in the name of their job descriptions. They ask questions, because it is their job to do so.

But here Bahceli stands today, saying, “mind your own business.” Fine, let’s mind our own business. Let’s pick up where our colleague Yildiz Yazicioglu left off.

Was Sinan Ates killed with the assent of MHP Leader Devlet Bahceli?

At the very least, does Devlet Bahceli know who murdered Sinan Ates?

Could Devlet Bahceli have prevented the murder of Sinan Ates?

Is Devlet Bahceli wielding his political clout to prevent information coming to light about the Sinan Ates murder?

Is he using the power he has as MHP Chairman to interfere with the police, the prosecutors, the judges?

Is the allegation brought forth by Kemal Kilicdaroglu true? Are the murderers hiding by Bahceli?

Is there a connection between the assassination of Sinan Ates and the ongoing cocaine trade at the Mersin Port? Was Sinan Ates killed by narcotic cartels because he opposed the drug business? ******

Where is Suleyman Soylu in all of this assassination business? Is he truly fulfilling the responsibilities of his position as Minister of the Interior?

Do you not have a word or two to spare for the shooting of Sinan Ates in broad daylight in the middle of Ankara, Mr. Devlet?

Fine, let’s say that we are going to mind our own business.

What business should you be minding, then, Mr. Devlet? Answer these questions…

Come now, mind your business…

* Professor Sinan Ates was a member of the MHP as well as a former leader of the far-right ultranationalist movement, the Grey Wolves. The organization is known in Turkish by the name “Home of the Idealists” or “Nationalist Hearts,” and is the paramilitary wing of the MHP. Ates was assassinated in broad daylight in central Ankara on December 30, 2022. Party members of the AKP and MHP did not immediately comment on the Ates assassination, and though the homicide is presumed to be politically motivated, some claim it is being given the veneer of an ordinary crime. Some speculate that Ates was assassinated by drug cartels associated with the MHP. One person taken into custody in relation to the homicide was arrested at MHP Mersin Deputy Olcay Kilavuz’s home.

** The Gezi Park protests were a 2013 movement against the government’s plans to demolish the park. The protesters were met with disproportionate police force and the resistance ballooned to last three weeks, encompassing social and political concerns beyond simply the environmental.

*** Sezgin Baran Korkmaz is a Turkish businessman indicted for money laundering and affiliations with the mafia. He is also connected to the drug trade. His name became infamous when Sedat Peker, the Turkish mafia boss turned whistleblower, alleged that the Minister of the Interior Suleyman Soylu alerted Korkmaz to the fact that he would be charged with crimes soon and should leave Turkey immediately.

**** Bagdat is referring to claims made by Sedat Peker and others that in the AKP regime, and particularly among members of Erdogan’s inner circle such as Minister Soylu, the relationship between the government and organized crime, including drug trafficking through ports, has flourished.

***** Minister Soylu alleged that organized crime leader Sedat Peker, who is currently outside of Turkey, was sending ten thousand dollars per month to a deputy in the Turkish parliament. Last year, Peker released a series of videos targeting leading members of the AKP and claimed their involvement in a variety of crimes. Minister Soylu denied the claims and considers them baseless slander.

****** The Mersin Port in Turkey has notoriously been used in the past five years for the transport of hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, from Latin America to Europe. It is presumed that an expansive network of corruption implicating customs officials and high-ranking politicians from the MHP is facilitating the narcotics traffic at the port. There are claims that Sinan Ates, former leader of the MHP-associated Grey Wolves, discovered the MHP’s involvement in the trade and was preparing a report on the issue.

*Hayko Bagdat was born in Istanbul in 1976, as the fourth child of an ethnic Greek mother and an Armenian father. After attending the Armenian schools Esayan and Mkhitaryan, he began studying history at Istanbul University in 1994. Due to the unexpected death of his father, he was unable to complete his studies. He began his journalism career in 2002 with a program on a radio station covering minority issues for the first time in Turkey, and worked as a journalist, columnist and commentator for Turkey's mainstream media. In 2007, Bagdat was among the founders of the "Friends of Hrant" group, which was formed after the murder of journalist Hrant Dink and that continues its search for justice. Bagdat's first book on being an Armenian and 'the other' in Turkey, Salyangoz (Snail) was published in 2014, his second book, Gollik, in 2015, and his third book, Kurtulus Cok Bozuldu, in 2016. His one-man stage performance "Salyangoz," based on his book, thrilled audiences in many cities in Turkey in 2016 and was subsequently acclaimed with tours all over the world. In 2017, Bagdat moved to Germany and continues to work as a journalist and producer in Berlin.

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