Feb 22 2018

Turkey’s Islamic government fully backs Hamas - analyst

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is fully supporting Hamas, an “age-old feature” of political Islam, said Burak Bekdil in an analysis for the Gatestone Institute.

New evidence has emerged that Turkey is backing an organisation that is recognised as terrorist by the United States and European Union, including its support for a conference in Istanbul, said Bekdil, a fellow at the Middle East Forum and a long-time journalist and analyst on Turkey.

“Turkey insists on siding ideologically with a terrorist organization -- ironically at a time when Erdoğan claims Turkish troops are fighting terrorists in Syria,” he said.

The latest evidence came at a conference in Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city, in February, sponsored by the state religious affairs directorate, the Diyanet, in which a deported Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) board member, Sami al-Arian, denounced the United States as "our enemy".

Diyanet's president Ali Erbas, an Erdoğan loyalist, told participants:

"Diyanet is with the suffering Palestinian Muslims who have been serving as the guardians of al-Aqsa for years despite any kind of invasion and violence and will continue to be by their side and provide any kind of support for them," Erbas said, according to Bekdil.

Arian founded a charity called the Islamic Committee for Palestine and raises money for PIJ, he said.

In 2014, Turkey hosted Salah al-Arouri, a Hamas commander the Palestinian Authority said had planned multiple attacks on Israeli targets. In December 2014, another Hamas leader said that his organisation was using Turkey for logistics, training and planning attacks. Then-Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu hosted the chief of Hamas's political bureau, Khaled Mashaal, the same month at a high-profile party congress.

Many other Hamas officials remain in Turkey, regularly posting photos of their time there on social media, Bekdil said.

“Erdoğan has claimed more than once that Hamas is not a terrorist group but a legitimate political party,” he said. “He has also repeatedly described Hamas militants as "freedom fighters"”.

Bekdil cited comments by Erdoğan in November 2016, in which he said again that he did not view Hamas as a terrorist organisation, rather a "political movement born from (a) national resurrection”.