Erdoganian Phenomenon and its arms in EU

تمثال أردوغان في كولن

Introduction

EU countries – Germany in particular – are the favorite destination for Muslim refugees and Turks who are looking for job opportunities. Since the end of World War II, Turk communities have spread all over Europe, but the majority of which is concentrated in Germany and Austria, where the Turkish participated in reconstructing these two country’ economy.

But it is obvious that the Turkish presence has become a concern in Germany and Austria. It has become a threat to the European identity, and a challenge to its values. And that is considered as a national security issue that cannot be condoned, especially since the EU constitutional laws consider any behavior or culture contradicting the European values a matter, punishable by law.

Were the Europeans late in noticing the Turkish Europeans?

EU’s concerns have been raised with the growing of the Erdoganian phenomenon and the attempt of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to exploit the Turkish communities in his political project. That was apparent during the Turkish elections, when Germany and the Netherlands prevented Turkish officials from organizing mass meetings with Turkish communities there, as part of the campaign for a referendum on the amended Turkish constitution. Turkish leaders protested against that move, and tried to pressure through the European elections, as great numbers of Turks living in EU have European and Turkish citizenship, and part of them became in one way or another dependent to the Erdoganian directives?! (1)

That late awareness of the EU decision makers coincided with the concerns raised because of political Islam, especially since the leader of political Islam is Erdogan, having a stubborn political mind. It also coincided with the terrorism and radicalism phenomenon that hit Europe shortly after the emergence of ISIS.

EU observers have realized that some Turkish families are not properly mingled with European values and are not interacting with the EU identity, although they have lived in EU for many years. Instead, Turkish families have gathered, creating Turkish neighborhoods, maintaining the Turkish life style almost in everything.

Are there Turkish Lobbies working for Erdogan agenda?

The disharmony of the Turkish families with European values despite all the years they spend there and the flexibility of the European decision in forming civil society institutions prompted some Turks to establish civil society associations in EU, loyal to the Turkish government. As the Erdoganian phenomenon was growing, the associations’ activities have become of a political nature, lobbies that have influence on the Turkish-European families and cause concerns to the European decision makers.

These concerns has increased, as Turkey has become the leader of the Erdoganian phenomenon of the Sunni world – as indicated above – to compete with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose role in leading the Sunnis has declined since the start of the Erdogan period.

Among the reasons that helped the Erdoganian phenomenon to spread and become the leader of the Islamic world is the collapse of the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt, its homeland, and arrests of most of its leaders. Additionally, Turkey’s Erdogan has provided a shelter for the remnants of its leaders, launching media platforms that served political Islam; consequently, it served the Erdoganian MB strategy.

With the growing of the Erdoganian phenomenon in the latest years and the increasing Turkish-EU disputes on many strategic decisions, the European concerns have increased. Moreover the AKP party, led by Erdogan, belongs to the political Islam, and it is a big supporter of the MB organization in its conflict against some Arab regimes. With that support, AKP gained popular support of the societies that are affiliated with the MB and disgruntled their authoritarian governments.

The popular support for the Erdogan phenomenon in Turkey and the Arab countries has made Turkish civil society institutions in Europe loyal in one way or another to Erdoganism, and thus the MB movement and its ideology!

 This prompts us to get to know the most influential Turkish institutions and their activities in Germany and other countries.

Civil society institutions Affiliated with Erdoganism, (Ditib) as an example

During the past few years, around 15 Islamic associations were legally registered in Germany, these associations together are known as the Turkish Islamic Union (Ditib).

A report says that the association adopts the ideology of political Islam that is linked to the international Muslim Brotherhood organization, and which goals are to islamize the German society through the subject of Islam religion that is taught at schools.

Ditib’s control over mosques and Islamic centers, supporting the hidden Turkish agendas against Germany and the Turkish opposition, help it in achieving that elusive goal. According to the report, those associations are supported by the Turkish Intelligence. (2)

These associations are called the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, known as Ditib, the biggest Islamic organization in Germany that is responsible for 970 mosques in the German states. Ditib is involved in developing Islamic curricula in most German schools, as indicated in the above-mentioned report.

In October 2017, a press report revealed that the German government had significantly reduced its financial support to the Turkish organization of Ditib, because of charges brought against it. Ditib was accused of trying to control other Islamic institutions and associations than those, affiliated with it. Additionally, it does not respect European values in terms of democracy, human rights and protection of minorities. (3)

Ditib is the largest and most important religion association in Germany that supports the Erdogan phenomenon. Although started in the eighties of the last century as an association, today it is funded by the Turkish government, and it is linked with the presidency of religious affairs, known as Diyanet, according to the report.

It is said that a third of Germany’s mosques – estimated at three thousand mosques – are funded by Ditib, which delegates imams and public speaking imams on Friday to those mosques from Turkey. The Turkish Yavuz Selim Charitable Association headed by Selim Tong also belongs to the Turkish Islamic Union Association Ditib. Likewise, the Architectural Sinan Mosque in Muzbach, named after Sinan, the most famous architect in the Ottoman Empire, belongs to Ditib, and it is located in the city of Muzbach in the state of Bavaria.

In January 2017, the Constitution Protection Authority in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia announced that it is investigating about accusations of espionage against the largest Islamic association in Germany, Ditib. A spokesman for the Interior Ministry of the state confirmed that imams belonged to the organization’s mosques provided the religious attaché in Turkish consulates in several German cities with information about Erdogan’s opponents.

The German authorities confirmed in March 2017 that it froze the financial support of Ditib within the framework of three projects. The authorities in Berlin announced that it was decided to allocate the amount of €1 million for these projects.

Two of the three projects were suspended by the German government, which were carried out within the framework of a program made by the German Ministry to support democracy and prevent extremism. The program was entitled “Live the Democracy”, and it is effective against right-wing extremism, violence and anti-humanity. Ditib participated in the ministry’s program for refugees’ relief: People Empower People.

There are organizations, associations and mosques affiliated with and supportive of the Erdoganian phenomenon:

  1. Gray Wolves

An extremist Turkish organization founded by Arpaslan Türkes, and monitored by the German authorities. It includes at least 10.000 members who were engaged in attacks and clashes against Kurdish people who oppose Erdoganism in Germany. However, the organization is classified as a nationalist organization.

  1. The Turkish Union

Turkish organization operating in Germany, it linked with the Gray Wolves organization, and accused of conducting several murders. It is directly monitored by the German Intelligence. It issues a monthly magazine denouncing left and Kurdish organizations in Turkey and Germany.

  1. The German Ottoman Society

An association founded by the AKP Party in Europe, its headquarters is located in the German state of Hessen. It presents itself as a civil society organization that arranges meetings of European Turkish Democrats. One of its most significant members is the former president of the assembly, Muhammed Baghji.

  1. Milli Gorüs Organization

It is the largest Islamic organization in Germany, founded by the late Turkish leader Necmettin Erbakan in the 1960s, and described as a very extremist group. According to the German intelligence report, many question marks are raised around it. It is monitored by the German intelligence apparatus and accused of promoting thoughts that support extremism and incite hatred and discrimination.

Milli Gorüs seeks to establish the first Islamist party in Germany, and it urges its members, numbering approximately 27,000 and most of whom are Turks, to obtain German citizenship, so they can engage in German political life, and the organization can achieve its ideological goals.

There is also the German Islamic Council, which is affiliated with Milli Gorüs and monitored by Germany’s internal intelligence.

  1. Turkish Community Organization in Germany

It admits publicly its loyalty to the Erdoganian phenomenon. In 2016, the head of the organization stated that he is working to get a hotline on social media, so that people can inform Turkish intelligence about Erdogan’s opponents in Germany? (4)

  1. Union of Turkish Islamic Societies

Bakr al-Bugha is one of its most prominent leaders. Some German politicians have accused the Union of not doing enough actions and programs against terrorism, which makes it under intelligence watch.

  1. Union of Europeans-Turkish Democrats (Türkischer Demokraten)

It was established in Cologne in 2004. Observers say that it is a tool for implementing Turkish agendas in Europe. It has offices in various European countries; however, its main activity is in Germany, where it has 46 branches. This union acts as a representative of the Turkish president and his party and mobilizes voters for him. It organizes the visits of AKP and government leaders. In other words, it is the most loyal to the Erdoganian phenomenon. (5)

German Authorities baffled in confronting Erdoganianism

Because of the suspicious activity of the Turkish society, which threatens European values, it is said that German authorities will increase their monitoring operations for the Turkish mosques and associations.

German authorities have also warned the Turkish organizations and associations of influencing the Muslim community in Germany. They intensified their monitoring for the type of values spread by these Turkish organizations and the political positions transferred in mosques and associations on which the Turkish government spends money in Germany. Analysts of the Erdoganian phenomenon say that Germany is likely to have differences and controversy with the Erdogan government at present and in the near future regarding the activities of illegal Turkish centers and associations.

In the light of Erdoganian phenomenon, Turkish/EU disputes increase.

All the expectations indicate that the intelligence relation between Germany and Turkey are taking a tense road, instead of cooperation and information exchange. This theory is enhanced by tensions between both countries, driven by ideological differences, which each of them consider in the political discourse as a threat to its national security.

The mutual relations between Germany and Turkey are important and central for each of them, in which information plays an important role. The most important one of which is that Berlin refused Turkey’s accession to the EU. Germany has also condemned the massacres against Armenians, which is a very sensitive issue for the Turkish government as it has very disturbing political and economic consequences for Erdogan. (6)

However, the Syrian refugees crisis is on the top of the Turkey-EU differences list, as Erdogan has always tried to use it as a pressure card against EU. On March 18, 2016, Turkey signed an agreement with EU on the crisis, according to which Turkey had to prevent the flow of illegal migrants through its border to Greece, in return for €6 billion to be paid to Turkey by the EU. But with every dispute with the EU, Turkey threatens of opening the borders for migrants, despite the signed agreement between both sides.

Freedom and human rights is one of the differences between Turkey and the EU. The dispute on this topic has increased since the failed coup against Erdogan that took place in July 2016. Germany accuses Turkey of oppressing opposition and journalists, especially after the detention of the German journalist Deniz Yücel in 2017 on charges of terrorism, the charge which Turkey uses against everyone who opposes Erdogan’s policy.

Although the journalist was released a year later, the situation of German citizens in Turkey did not improve, as the German Foreign Ministry revealed on January 1, 2020 that the number of Germans banned from traveling for unknown reasons is growing, in addition to dozens of Germans who were arrested on weak charges, including insulting the president, according to DW. (7)

All Turkish citizens who live in Germany and do not belong to one of the associations and organizations loyal to Erdogan, are considered as opponents and foes supported by EU, and this is another issue that increases the disputes between both countries.

An intelligence memo dating back to March 19, 2019, obtained by Nordic Monitor revealed that Turkish intelligence services spy on Germany, where they monitor the activities of the Turks residing there and are suspected of opposing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and having connections with the Gülen movement. (8)

An intelligence report reveals that Turkish intelligence has three main goals in Germany:

  1. The Gülen Movement and its followers

On March 18, 2017, German intelligence (BND) stated via Reuters that the Turkish government had failed to persuade Germany of the involvement of Fethullah Gülen in the alleged coup in Ankara. The then intelligence chief Bruno Kahl said that the Gülen movement is a national movement, aiming to give its country religious and secular education at the same time, and Germany does not recognize it as an extremist movement, but on the contrary the German media sympathizes with the movement and its supporters living freely in Germany. That is what Turkey’s government fears or at least sets as a justification for more intelligence activities in Berlin to protect its power.

  1. Spying MP in the German Parliament

The German intelligence confirmed that Turkey spies on members of the parliament (the Bundestag) and collects information about them. It spies on more than 300 people in Germany, most of whom are opponents to the Erdogan government, along with 200 educational institutions, schools, and clubs. In this regard, the former German Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Mezière said: „The actions practiced by Ankara in our country are unacceptable, regardless of the criticisms that they bear of the Gülen movement.“ These accusations coincided with the willingness of Turkish citizens in Germany to vote in the constitutional referendum in April 2017 to amend the constitution. Due to these allegations, the parliament discussed with the German Federal Criminal Police Agency (BKA) the seriousness of Turkish activities, while German federal prosecutors began in July 2017 a preliminary investigation into alleged espionage activities of Turkey against German MPs.

  1. The PKK

It is one of the biggest Turkish-EU differences, since Ankara considers the PKK party as a real threat for the Turkish national security. For many years, Ankara’s successive governments had military conflict with the party. Many of the Turkish party members live in Germany and carry out various activities, which Erdogan’s government considers as a violation of the anti-terrorism laws adopted in Germany, taking into consideration that the YPG units that belong to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is classified a terrorist organization in Turkey. However, Germany deals with the YPG members with laxness. On January 8, 2020, the Sita Center for Research and Studies claimed that Germany violates article (129b) of the Criminal Code regarding pursueing members of terrorist groups, indicating that it does not pursue the PKK members. (9)

In a report issued on March 31, 2013, DW said that there are more than Turkish Kurds living in Germany, 13,000 of them belong to the PKK.

In 2016, Reuters revealed the German concerns of a growing Kurdish/Turkish conflict after spotting quarrels between party supporters and Turkish citizens who support Erdogan. Germany says that Turkish Kurds who live in Germany have become a burden on its security, as they are used as a pretext for espionage and eavesdropping. On February 12, 2019 Germany decided to close publishing houses belonging to the PKK for funding the party that Germany and EU consider as a terrorist party. (10)

The report was concluded with a recommendation to the German decision-makers to take firmer stances towards Turkish intelligence activities, and that they should protect the people and institutions targeted by Turkish intelligence, and provide more information about these activities and discuss them in the Parliament in order to inform the citizen politicians about the Turkish intelligence activities.

The German government needs to obtain political or legal guarantees from Erdogan’s government, guaranteeing the rights of German citizens of Turkish origin, both within Germany and when they visit Turkey. (11)

The Danger of MB thoughts on the EU-Turkish youth in light of growing Erdoganian Phenomenon

In April 2017, 63% of Turkish voters in Germany voted for constitutional amendments, supporting the constitutional reforms and the Turkish ruling regime. That percentage is clear evidence about the influence of the Erdogan phenomenon. (12)

Hülya Özkan-Bellut in her book “In Erdogan’s Visor”, the journalist describes why the Turkish president desires to radicalize German Turks, especially in times when the absolute majority of the AKP starts to crumble, losing the majority of votes in the latest municipal elections.

To reinforce this desire for radicalism, it was built on strong ideological basis, and since all the Turks have intolerance for Turkish nationalism, Erdogan’s government should find another factor that turns the Turkish nationalism into radicalism. Here comes the role of political Islam, that has become Erdogan’s strategy, using it in his speeches and meetings that support this path. In this context, Erdogan succeeded in transferring the Turkish citizen’s affiliation from a purely chauvinistic national one, as in previous decades into a nationalist/ Islamist affiliation. He uses the Muslim Brotherhood’s agenda as his approach and it is known that the Muslim Brotherhood movement has two main goals:

The first is regaining the Islamic Caliphate, which intersects with Erdogan’s dream. The second is radicalizing the societies among which it lives, and this paves the way for the movement to reach power even through democratic process, and then conquering Rome, according to the MB heritage. (13)

These two MB goals are now in the service of the Erdoganian phenomenon. Some reports also talk about certain cooperation between the MB and Turkish institutions in EU. It is noteworthy that the MB has been present in EU for nearly half a century. The movement has its own institutions that they run with MB support. Today, the MB and the Erdogan parties have met, each with its own supports and institutions in the EU. They have agreed on one dream, knowing that the Muslim Brotherhood movement does not mind, if the caliph is not Arab, and this is suitable for Erdogan’s passion and ambitions.

Both of them are strongly calling for the return of the Islamic caliphate, and this view is shared by the Islamic Liberation Party, which is present in minor numbers in EU. (14)

In addition to the above mentioned facts, there are objective factors helping the Erdoganian dream, including the MB experience in secret organizational work for nearly a century, the presence of the Turkish community in Europe, where it is considered one of the oldest non-European communities and the biggest in number, in addition to the economic boom and the semi-luxury status achieved by the Erdogan project that attracts the Turkish youth and include them within the Erdogan/ MB activities that we talked about earlier. In addition to all that, Erdogan enjoys a leadership charisma that former Turkish leaders have not enjoyed for long time. Erdogan invested that charisma with the Turkish youth in two ways:

The first: In Turkey, through schools and institutes of “Imam Khatib” that establish generations who imbued the concepts of political Islam and will be the popular support that Erdogan will depend on in his elections. In Turkey, these institutes are a political issue and a matter of great disagreement between Erdogan’s AKP party and the Turkish opposition. (15)

The second is investing the Erdoganian phenomenon with the Turksih communities in EU in general, Germany and Austria in particular, to help him implementing his Islamic project supported by political Islam streams, and creating Turkish bases in the EU with Erdoganian tendencies and Islamic ideology.

The expansion of the Erdoganian phenomenon could be monitored throughthe referendum on the constitutional amendments, through which Erdogan succeeded in grapping all the power joints in his hand.

The table below shows, through numbers and percentages, how the Erdoganian phenomenon influenced Turkish citizens to support it. (16)

Country Actual Voters Registered Voters Percentage
Germany 575564 1,430,000 (40,24%)
France 142950 326378 (43,80%)
Netherlands 114555 252864 (45,3%)
Belgium 56113 137675 (40,76%)
Austria 43824 108565 (40,37%)
Switzerland 41733 95266 (43,81%)
Sweden 12588 37858 (33,25%)
Denmark 13629 34139 (33,25%)
Italy 5533 14200 (38,96%)
Norway 2929 8081 (36,24%)

The Turkish character generally has two important characteristics that we must recognize and deal with:

The first: It cherishes its Turanism to the point of fanaticism.

The second: If they believe in an idea they turn it into acts without considering the consequences.

In other words, the national pride of the chauvinist Turkish nationalism meets his belief in the political Islamist, which is affiliated in one way or another with the agenda of the MB. Moreover, the Erdoganian phenomenon revived the dreams of the Turks who support it, that the Ottoman Turkey could resurrect. The Erdoganian phenomenon with its great propaganda made that a day dream for some Turks.

All that requires quick and specific strategy, before the Erdogan phenomenon turns into a violence phenomenon that might go to terrorist directions. Then the EU will have to face the most dangerous challenge that threatens its western values, and the battle will be too difficult. To win it, it may require the Europeans to give up many of the welfare they enjoy, and most importantly, give up many human and democratic issues. This would be a setback for the European and human civilizational leap. This means that hard work must be done before it will be too late.

Sources and references:

  1. Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Many of those who met Erdogan describe his as a person of charismatic, popular, quick-witted, sharp character, who can be provoked quickly, and he is very close to the Turkish people. His character is a result of the difficult path he took in his life and the important and articulating stations that influenced him as a young man, when he became mayor of Istanbul (1994-1998) and when he was imprisoned for a poem he recited in 1998. Despite his graduation from the College of Science Economic and commercial studies at the Marmara University in Istanbul, the previous stage seemed to have the most influence on his behavior and character. Erdogan was famous for public speaking and culture, and this started in the high school stage, when he learnt that from the preaching imams of the mosques he used to go to. As for his organizational, administrative sense and accuracy, they were apparently acquired from the university stage, and developed through the positions he gained at that stage, starting from a member of the Youth Committee of the National Student Union in 1970s, up to the position of the Mayor of Istanbul, the largest municipality in Turkey in 1994.
  2. European Center for Counter-Terrorism and Intelligence Studies: europarabct.com/الإستخبارات-التركية-ألمانيا
  3. Previous reference.
  4. Oliver Pieper: How strong is the AKP in Germany?: https://www.dw.com/de/wie-stark-ist-die-akp-in-deutschland/a-43836489
  5. Previous reference: With an analysis of its information.
  6. Turkish intelligence, Spy networks under the eyes of German intelligence. A study issued by: https://www.europarabct.com/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%a7%d8%b3%d8%aa%d8%ae%d8%a8%d8%a7%d8%b1%d8%a7%d8%aa-2/
  7. Previous reference.
  8. Secret files of Turkish intelligence operations in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden are revealed by KORDIK MONITOR https://www.nordicmonitor.com/2020/05/secret-files-reveal-turkish-intelligence-operations-in-germany-denmark-netherlands-sweden/
  9. Sita Center for Research and Studies: https://sitainstitute.com
  10. Turkish intelligence … Spy networks under the eyes of German intelligence. A study issued by: https://www.europarabct.com/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%a7%d8%b3%d8%aa%d8%ae%d8%a8%d8%a7%d8%b1%d8%a7%d8%aa-2/
  11. Reference link: dw.com/ar/برلين-تكشف-عن-ارتفاع-عدد-الألمان-الممنوعين-من-السفر-في-تركيا
  12. How strong is the AKP in Germany? By Deutsche Welle: https://www.dw.com/de/wie-stark-ist-die-akp-in-deutschland/a-43836489
  13. There is Hadith that the advocates of the Islamic caliphate claim is attributed to Prophet Muhammed, and which says: Rome (Europe) will be conquered, and its conqueror is the best conqueror ever. Advocates of the caliphate and Islamization now believe that might come true through the Erdoganian phenomenon, especially after the economic revival that Erdogan achieved for Turkey.
  14. Liberation Party: An Islamist party that sees the return of the caliphate as the backbone of its ideology; it was established in the early 1960s by Sheikh Taqi al-Din al-Nabhani; after his defection from the Muslim Brotherhood movement. The basis for this party’s work is the change, and the purpose of this change is two things: the resumption of Islamic life, the rise of the Islamic nation, and the way to bring about this change is the establishment of the Islamic state, i.e. the establishment of the Islamic caliphate state. Therefore, the material for this change is actions that would destroy existing regime in the Islamic world, establish the Islamic state in its place, change the abode of infidelity to become the house of Islam, and unite all Muslims under the umbrella of the caliphate state.The party is active in the politics, media, and Islamic advocacy fields, and according to the party’s publications, it takes political and intellectual work as a path for its work, and avoids what it calls “financial actions” such as armed actions to achieve its goal. It is spread in all countries of the world, especially Turkey and England.
  15. Imam Khatib Schools and Institutes: aiming at providing imams and preachers, and in the Turkish secular regime, they are considered vocational schools that graduate government employees to work in mosques and Islamic religious administrations. They are extension of religious education in the Ottoman caliphate state. Erdogan made them one of his arms that contains the religious youth and as an alternative to Abdullah Gulen schools after the recent conflict between them. The Turkish opposition considers these institutes and schools a political issue used by Erdogan to implement his agenda.
  16. Turkish communities in Europe, numbers and data. Quoted by Agence France-Presse and the Al-Jazeera Net website: aljazeera.net/encyclopedia/events/2017/3/17/الجاليات-التركية-بأوروبا-أرقام

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