Controversy surrounds Süleymancılar Order
HALE GONULTAS- The Süleymancılar Order, an Islamist group, has been implicated in a concerning incident involving Brazilian children from impoverished families in Amazonian villages. Led by Abdülhakim Tokdemir and his team, the order provided religious education to these children in Manaus before bringing them to Turkey and housing them in dormitories. As news of these actions surfaced, an investigation was launched against Tokdemir and his team.
According to our investigation, Tokdemir and his team coerced children from dozens of underprivileged families living in the Amazonian villages near the Colombian border to sign documents. Subsequently, they transported the children to Manaus, Brazil, where they underwent three years of religious boarding education. In February 2022, six of these children were brought to Turkey and placed in dormitories located in Kütahya and Tarsus.
However, following public outcry over this incident, the order's administration returned the six Brazilian children to their home country, overturning their previous decision to house them in Turkey.
We attempted to reach out to Abdülhakim Tokdemir for further details on how an Islamist group came into contact with people living in isolation in the Amazon jungle. Tokdemir, a well-known figure in religious order circles, stated that he was currently under investigation by the Brazilian police and required permission before speaking on the matter. However, subsequent attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.
Official documents indicate that Tokdemir had applied for asylum in Brazil thrice in 2015, 2018, and 2019. In 2019, he co-founded the Amazon Humanitarian Assistance Solidarity Association with Tuğrul Metin, Abdullah Arı, and Hakan Ugurlu, who also had residency status in Brazil. The association rented a two-story building with a garden in Manaus for their operations.
On June 4, 2021, Brazilian authorities granted Tokdemir's asylum application. Supported by the Suleimanists, Tokdemir, and his team visited the Colombian border, where indigenous Amazonian communities reside, to establish connections with impoverished families living in villages. By offering aid and building trust, they obtained permission from the parents to relocate their children to Manaus to offer improved living conditions. The children were placed in an association building in Manaus, where they underwent religious education, including Arabic and Turkish language instruction, for three years. Non-Muslim children aged 4 to 17 were reportedly converted to Islam at the spiritual education center.
THE TRANSFER TO TURKEY
In early 2022, two Tokdemir team members brought six of these children to Turkey under "educational visas" granted by the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Brazil. One child, aged 15, was placed in Kütahya, while the remaining four, all aged 17, were sent to schools affiliated with the Süleymancıs in Tarsus.
During our investigation, we discovered that Mathias, one of the Brazilian children brought to Turkey, was residing in the Siteler Student Dormitory in Kütahya. However, attempts to communicate with him were unsuccessful, with dormitory staff members providing limited information and refusing interviews.
Similarly, four Brazilian boys were reportedly staying at the Mekân Ortadoğu Boys' Dormitory in Tarsus. However, the dormitory administrators declined to provide any information during our phone inquiry. Subsequently, an unidentified individual contacted us from an unlisted phone number, expressing hostility and denied any knowledge about the children's whereabouts. When pressed for information, the caller mentioned that the children had been transferred to an Islamic solidarity organization called MENA in Istanbul. However, our next contact with MENA revealed no information regarding the Brazilian children.
EMBASSY DIPLOMATS: INVESTIGATION UNDERWAY
Yesterday, I met with diplomats from the Brazilian Embassy in Ankara for an in-person discussion. According to diplomatic sources, the Brazilian police are investigating bringing children to Turkey. They clarified that Brazilian children under 18 can travel with parental permission, like in many other countries. The foundations and associations involved in bringing the children to Turkey are now under police investigation. The Brazilian Embassy stated its intention to monitor the situation, although it has made no contact with the children brought to Turkey thus far.
Whilst preparing this article, I contacted the Turkish Ambassador to Brazil, Halil İbrahim Akça, to inquire about allegations that the Brazilian Foreign Ministry had invited them to discuss the activities of Islamic groups in Brazil. Additionally, I sought information regarding the process of obtaining visas for the children from Brazil. However, after waiting a while, the embassy secretary informed me, "Our ambassador will respond to you in the coming hours." Unfortunately, I have not received a response from the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Brazil.
The revelation of the "Islamization" of Amazonian children in Turkey was made possible by the efforts of my Brazilian colleague, Thalys Alcantara. Thalys covered the process of bringing these children to Turkey in an article on the Metropoles website.
I spoke with Thalys to gather more details on the issue. She emphasized that the children brought to Turkey are indigenous to Brazil, and their culture and way of life are protected by Brazilian law.
Following reports by the Brazilian and Turkish media regarding the transportation of indigenous Brazilian children to Turkey, local police and Interpol have initiated a thorough investigation. The matter has also garnered attention in Brazilian politics and public opinion.
According to officials from the Brazilian Embassy in Ankara, a visit by a Brazilian parliamentary delegation concerning this investigation is being planned. However, the exact date of their arrival in Turkey has not been confirmed yet.
Brazilian diplomatic sources state that Brazilian politicians intend to visit the Süleymancı facilities where the six children are currently being held in Kütahya and Tarsus. The parliamentarians are determined to meet the Brazilian children in person.
The Brazilian politicians also plan to meet with diplomats to discuss the issue of minors being brought to Turkey on "education visas." They want to learn about the children's situation and the legal basis for their two-year stay in Turkey.
Brazilian diplomats said another significant development occurred during a United Nations (UN) meeting in Vienna, Austria, last month. Brazilian politicians attending the meeting raised the issue of indigenous children from the Amazon region being brought to Turkey by members of the Turkish Süleymancılar sect.
THE SULEYMANCILAR ORDER SENDS CHILDREN BACK TO BRAZIL
The ongoing investigation by Interpol and its consideration as a case of international human trafficking have raised serious concerns within the Süleymancılar Order.
Yesterday, a decision was made by the order to return the children who were taken from the Amazon region to Brazil.After receiving two years of religious education, the children who were brought to Turkey with visas issued by the Turkish Embassy in Brazil and were placed in dormitories in Tarsus and Kütahya, returned back to their home country. The six children have recently arrived in São Paulo, Brazil.
THE SÜLEYMANCILAR ORDER
On November 29, 2016, a fire caused by an electrical short circuit broke out in a dormitory belonging to the Süleymancılar sect in Aladağ, Adana. The fire tragically resulted in the loss of many lives, including female middle school students.