President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has once again slammed American media outlets over reports on Turkey, claiming that some of the media organizations and think tanks in the United States are under the influence of what he called a “parallel structure” within the Turkish state.
“I should also talk about the parallel state structure in Turkey. And I'd like to remind you of some of the facts regarding this issue. I say this because some media organizations and think tanks in the United States seem to be at least partly under the influence of this organization,” Erdoğan said in remarks in New York during an address at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
The “parallel structure” is a term invented by Erdoğan to refer to sympathizers of the Hizmet movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, within the police and the judiciary. He claims the “parallel state” seeks to topple his government.
During his address, Erdoğan also criticized a number of media outlets, particularly those in the US, for certain media reports alleging that Turkey has ties with the terrorist Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). He stated that Turkish officials have been observing an effort in “some circles” to try to represent Turkey as supporting terrorism. “Some media organizations in the United States and some nongovernmental organizations are targeting Turkey in a planned fashion through unfounded news and publications that slander,” Erdoğan said, calling the reports alleging Turkey is backing ISIL as “very unfounded, very slanderous.”
He specifically mentioned a report in The New York Times dated Sept. 13 that claimed Turkey is involved in oil trade with ISIL. “Some claim that we are engaged in oil trade with ISIS [ISIL]. This is completely unfounded. This is slander. It's a lie. I say this -- I've said this many times. Our minister of energy has said this many times. When I was prime minister, I referred to these lies and the current prime minister is doing the same,” he said.
Western intelligence officials cited in The New York Times said they are able to track ISIL oil shipments as they move across Iraq and Turkey, but the US has not yet attacked the trucks. However, attacking trucks carrying ISIL oil “remains an option,” a senior administration official reportedly told The New York Times.
Erdoğan also mentioned another New York Times report that particularly offended him. The New York Times ran a story on Sept. 15 with a photo of Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu leaving a mosque in Ankara's Hacı Bayram neighborhood, which the report said has become a recruitment hub for ISIL. The New York Times report focused on Hacı Bayram, where it said about 100 people have joined the ranks of ISIL, indicating that its locals tried to approach Erdoğan and Davutoğlu to raise the issue of ISIL recruitment when the two went to the historic Hacı Bayram-ı Veli Mosque there.
“But there are still some who insist on this position. Some claim that ISIS [ISIL] militants are … in Turkey. In fact, there was a picture where the prime minister and I were leaving a mosque after the Friday prayer, and that picture appeared in one of the well-known newspapers in the United States as a place where the ISIS [ISIL] terrorist organization is being supported,” Erdoğan said, adding, “How is this misinformation, this approach possible?”
Erdoğan was particularly angered by the photo of him and Davutoğlu leaving the mosque in Hacı Bayram that was published along with the story. He called the report “shameless, ignoble and base” in a speech last week.
In his address Erdoğan also slammed reports over Turkish hostages who were held captive by ISIL in Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, for 101 days. He alleged that his and other officials' sensitive statements over the hostage crisis have been distorted by “some circles.” Erdoğan and other high-level Turkish officials have been harshly criticized for failing to call ISIL a terrorist group. Government officials have defended themselves by saying they have to be careful about their statements so as not to endanger the security of the Turkish citizens being held by ISIL.
Erdoğan also rejected The New York Times' request to meet, the Diken news portal reported on Tuesday. According to the report, The New York Times' editorial board asked for a meeting with Erdoğan to discuss the tension that arose following the Hacı Bayram article and the problems regarding press freedom in Turkey. However, Erdoğan reportedly declined to meet with The New York Times' editors.
Criticisms about Israeli gov't, not people
Erdoğan also mentioned his harsh criticisms targeting Israel over its recent Gaza offensive. He said he is very sad to see that he, his country and his colleagues are sometimes labeled anti-Semitic. “In no part of Turkey's history has it ever been racist. It has never been anti-Semitic in any time in its history,” Erdoğan stated.
“There are times when I am personally labeled an anti-Semite. Criticizing Israel's massacres, which defy international law and trample human rights and life, is not anti-Semitic. … Our criticism is not directed at the Jews. It is only and solely directed at the Israeli administration and its policies, and no one should distort this. There is a distinction here,” he said, and again denounced “some media organizations” for “labeling Turkey anti-Semitic.”
He said the reports are part of a “smear campaign, attempts to distort perception” about Turkey and advised his audience not to listen to this “black propaganda” or “give a premium to it.”
Erdoğan denies remarks attributed to him about extradition of Gülen
In remarks to reporters after his address at the CFR, Erdoğan denied reports maintaining that he had asked US President Barack Obama to extradite Gülen, but failed to convince him.
When asked about Haass' tweet, Erdoğan briefly answered, “I didn't say such a thing.”
The potential extradition of the US-based scholar has led to diplomatic tension between Ankara and Washington in the past. During an interview in March, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan had said he had asked for Gülen to be extradited as a threat to Turkey's national security. Erdoğan claimed that Obama had viewed this request “positively” and replied by saying, “I got the message.”
In a statement, the White House denied the response attributed to Obama with regard to Gülen, saying it is “not accurate.”
Gülen is in self-imposed exile in the US, and there is no legal hurdle preventing him from returning to Turkey. Shortly after he went to the US in 2000, he was charged with establishing an illegal organization in Turkey, but he was acquitted in 2008.
After a corruption and bribery investigation became public on Dec. 17 of last year, around 50 people were detained -- including the sons of three ministers, businesspeople and bureaucrats -- and allegations arose that several ministers were also implicated in illegal acts. Shortly afterwards, Erdoğan reassigned prosecutors and thousands of police officers, claiming that they were under the control of Gülen and trying to create a “state within a state.”
Published on Today's Zaman, 23 September 2014, Tuesday\