Kurdish Youth in Turkey Become al-Qaeda Recruits

By Uzay Bulut  – RUDAW – ANKARA, Turkey – Al-Qaeda groups are sending fighters and directing the war in Syria from border bases in Turkey’s Kurdish provinces, residents and relatives of recruits said.

They said that Islamist groups affiliated to al-Qaeda are sending young recruits into the “jihad” in Syria in cahoots with certain Islamist and political parties in Turkey. Men from the Islamist groups have reportedly settled in the provinces of Antep, Adıyaman, Bingol, Batman, Urfa, Diyarbakır and Bitlis. “Al-Qaeda is a world plague,” said Cemal Babaoglu, head of the Urfa branch of Turkey’s Human Rights Association (IHD). “We went to the town of Ceylanpınar on the Syrian border. The local people there believe that al-Qaeda is protected by the Turkish state. They say they are definitely sure,” he said. He added that young men from Urfa are recruited and sent to Syria by certain Islamist political parties and groups, and that one such recruit was his own cousin.“His father could not stop him. He thinks he will go to heaven if he fights in Syria,” Babaoglu said. “Some of those who went to fight in Syria lost their lives and their remains were sent back here,” Babaoglu added.

He said that locals feel unsafe because of the new settlers, who they believe are from places like Afghanistan and Chechnya.

“There are allegations that about 150 people from Turkey went to Syria to fight but we do not know the exact number,” Osman Suzen, head of the Adiyaman branch of IHD told Rudaw. “Even the governor of Antep says that the youths from Antep are joining the war in Syria,” said Suzen. Relatives of missing recruits have to cross into the war-stricken areas of Syria, search through different camps and pay a ransom to have the groups let their children go, the Radikal Daily reported.

“I went to the town of Kilis with a Syrian guide after I learnt that my son joined Ahrar ash-Sham,” the daily quoted an unidentified father as saying. “I gave some money to the guide so that he would go to Syria and bring him back. When he returned, he said that my son went to the war after completing his training. The organization changed my son’s name to ‘Abu Musa.’ I don’t know if my son is dead or alive now,” the newspaper quoted the father as saying.

Cemal Kılıcparlar’s son joined Al-Qaeda from Antep about 18 months ago.

“When I did not hear from my son for a while I reported to the police department. They said the association my son was attending was an al-Qaeda affiliate. They also said 170 people from Antep have gone to Syria, but they could not do anything because they went there of their own will,” he said.  “How could the police not tell me while my son was going to an al-Qaeda affiliated association?”

IHD head Ozturk Turkdogan said that Kurdish youth are sent to Syria with the knowledge of the Turkish intelligence service.

“We have some registered complaints that illegal and radical Islamist organizations organize youths in the name of religion and take them to Syria. It is obvious that those groups are recruiting soldiers for the civil war in Syria, so we are shocked that the police and intelligence units overlook the activities of those organizations,” Turkdogan said. The families who have filed these reports have also done so at the police headquarters and prosecutor’s office, but no legal action has been taken yet,” he complained. Meanwhile, the Adıyaman Police Headquarters confirmed in a statement that 11 residents of the town have joined Islamist groups like Jabhat al-Nusrah and other al-Qaeda affiliates. “After their families lodged complaints at our department, it was found that 25 people are missing in Adıyaman and that 11 of them have gone to Syria. We are following the activities of the extremists who allegedly deceive youth here and take them to Syria,” the statement said.

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