The Islamic Great East Raiders Front (İslami Büyük Doğu Akıncıları Cephesi, IBDA-C), a militant Turkish jihadist organization that openly endorses al-Qaeda ideology, has recently targeted the Jewish community in Turkey. This disturbing development unfolded in the wake of Hamas's terrorist attacks on October 7, subsequently prompting an escalation of Israel's offensive in Gaza.
The group has called for a siege of all military bases hosting NATO and US troops in Turkey, a declaration of total war against Jews, the confiscation of assets belonging to Jews and those who engage in trade with Israel or support Israel's economy and the imprisonment of Turks who have endorsed Israeli views and opposed Hamas.
"Jewish capital that belongs to Israel, that pours money into Israel and that controls the lifeline of the economy must be confiscated immediately," declared Ali Osman Zor, a prominent figure within IBDA-C. Zor, who has a criminal record and has previously served time for engaging in terrorist activities, made this statement in a video interview that was published on the group's online platform, adimlardergisi.com, on October 18, 2023.
Furthermore, he emphasized, "Any action or utterance that lends support to Israel within the country must be deemed tantamount to endorsing terrorism. Investigations should be promptly launched into such individuals, culminating in their immediate arrest."
Zor, in his call for total war against Jews, the US, the UK and France, underscored the need for Turkey to spearhead a coalition against Israel. He advocated for a siege on all NATO bases on Turkish territory and proposed issuing a 48-hour ultimatum for their exit from these bases. Additionally, he urged the government to compel the navies of these nations to quickly depart from the eastern Mediterranean.
"We must dispense with the pretense of being a mediator as Turkey will no longer fulfill that role. Instead, Turkey must emerge as a nation that forges a [war] front against Israel and assumes a leadership position in its formation," he further said.
"It will be officially announced that we are leaving NATO, and a 48-hour ultimatum will be issued to NATO bases, compelling them to evacuate [their troops] and depart from Turkish soil. If the situation necessitates, appeals will be made to the locals residing in the vicinity of these NATO bases, mobilizing our entire nation of 80 million people. Similar to the blockade enforced on Gaza, our citizens will surround the NATO bases, effectively blockading them. The pressure will mount on NATO bases until they comply and vacate within the specified 48-hour timeframe," he said in articulating IBDA-C's position.
The leader of IBDA-C also referenced statements made by Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on October 17 during a speech in Lebanon. Fidan had said, "We require new definitions. When you occupy someone's land, confiscate their home and demolish it then displace the occupants to replace them with others, you label them 'settlers.' In reality, this act should be called theft, and we must acknowledge it as such."
Zor said in light of the recent statement by Turkey's senior diplomat characterizing Israeli activities, the Turkish government is obliged to translate these words into concrete action. "The response that should be accorded to a thief [Jews] is to cut off their hand, and for those involved in confiscation, it is to pierce their liver and rip out their heart."
Zor also said his group sees no issue with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assuming the role of a dictator in Turkey as long as those who express pro-Israel, anti-Hamas views are imprisoned. He also issued a threat suggesting that if the government fails to take action, social forces may mobilize, implying that his group would take matters into their own hands against Jews, whom he accused of holding the entire global population of 8 billion people hostage.
Zor also called for the termination of all agreements with Israel and Western nations. He predicted that violence would persist until the destruction of Israel is achieved. He also forecast the elimination of Israel's supporters, including the United States, the United Kingdom and France, from the face of the earth.
Zor has a history of legal troubles and imprisonment. He was initially convicted for his role as an administrator in the IBDA-C terrorist organization, resulting in a 15-year prison sentence. He served time from 1994 to 2002, after which he was released while awaiting a review of his conviction by the Supreme Court of Appeals. He subsequently faced multiple new trials with various criminal charges brought against him by public prosecutors. In 2008 he was once again convicted and sentenced to 12-and-a-half years in prison.
In an attempt to avoid serving his earlier sentence and facing a new one, Zor fled to Kyrgyzstan in 2009. However, he was detained by Kyrgyz authorities in 2011 and subsequently extradited to Turkey. He was ultimately released from prison in September 2013.
Indeed, the threats of violence and terrorism by IBDA-C should be treated with the utmost seriousness, especially considering the past record of terrorist acts attributed to the group, which has claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks in Turkey, including what authorities deemed a joint operation with al-Qaeda, leading to the 2003 bombings in Istanbul targeting two synagogues, an HSBC bank branch and the British Consulate General.
Additionally, they were involved in a 2008 attack on the US Consulate General in Istanbul. These incidents demonstrate the group's willingness to engage in acts of terrorism and further underline the need for vigilance and effective counterterrorism efforts.
The group was launched by its infamous late leader, Salih İzzet Erdiş, who was also known by his adopted name, Salih Mirzabeyoğlu. He first started out as a publisher in the mid-1970s and later organized the IBDA-C in 1984, using a cell-based approach. The group has brought a radical interpretation to the literature and teachings of Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, the late renowned Turkish poet and writer, and introduced the element of violence and armed struggle as legitimate tools for the Islamist ideology. He was arrested in 1998, tried and sentenced to aggravated life.
The group is organized based on independent cells comprising several people who boast the individual belief of "self-induced manifestation," which does not require a hierarchy or central orders to move against a target. IBDA-C members are led to believe in an eventual mass uprising disrupting the established order in Turkey and the world. Each and every member is tasked with waging a militia-type war on every platform to foment chaos, stir up rebellion and destroy institutions.
The IBDA-C, although it is designated as a terrorist organization due to its involvement in violent attacks and bombings in Turkey, has seen a resurgence during the time in power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Erdogan, who gave IBDA-C a new lease on life.
The Turkish president has also orchestrated the release of convicted members of this organization from prison, including Mirzabeyoğlu, who was serving a life sentence. The release of IBDA-C leader Mirzabeyoğlu by the Erdogan government in 2014, followed by a welcoming phone call from President Erdogan to offer support, is a significant road marker. Mirzabeyoğlu passed away in May 2018, but his network is still very much alive and is in fact expanding.
Today, IBDA-C networks have managed to establish numerous organizations in Turkey. They appear to operate with a degree of political cover, shielded from crackdowns by law enforcement agencies and facing no legal troubles in the criminal justice system. Furthermore, there are allegations that the Erdogan government actively funds the organization through contracts and tenders, and it has even been reported that convicted IBDA-C members are hired in local governments under the control of the AKP.
In fact Erdogan even appointed Hamza Yerlikaya, an individual associated with IBDA-C, in the role of a chief advisor in the presidential palace, which underscores the significant influence that this organization appears to wield within the Turkish government. Furthermore, these networks cooperate with Turkish intelligence agency MIT, engaging in such activities as mobilizing jihadists in Turkey and abroad.
IBDA-C has also been tapped to incite crowds in the streets when necessary to advance the political agenda of the Erdogan government, making clear the relationship between certain elements within the government and these extremist networks of IBDA-C.
Until 2014 the group had been under close monitoring by the Turkish police, which had conducted 17 planned intelligence sweeps against IBDA-C, resulting in the criminal prosecution of its militants. As of August 2009, the police had detained 1,186 IBDA-C militants in total, seizing 146 guns of various calibers and 80 hand grenades as well as explosives components. A total of 219 terrorist acts perpetrated by IBDA-C militants were solved, and 28 terrorist plots in the planning stages were thwarted by the police.
However, those police chiefs who led the effort to crack down on IBDA-C were purged from their jobs between 2014 and 2017. The newcomers who filled the vacated posts observe the government's redline on IBDA-C and avoid investigating IBDA-C militants.
Abdullah Bozkurt, a Middle East Forum Ginsburg/Milstein Writing Fellow, is a Sweden-based investigative journalist and analyst who runs the Nordic Research and Monitoring Network and is chairman of the Stockholm Center for Freedom.