Jul 11 2018

New Turkish Chief of Staff’s controversial past

Turkey’s new Chief of the General Staff, Yaşar Güler, has a curriculum vitae that boasts some of the country’s most impressive positions, but is likely to be a divisive figure due to his involvement in controversies including the massacre of 34 Kurdish villagers, BBC Türkçe reports.

Having been hotly tipped for the job, the four-star general was named as Turkey’s new Chief of Staff after his predecessor, Hulusi Akar, was assigned to the cabinet as Minister of National Defence under the new government on Monday.

Güler first came to wide public attention in 2010 when he shook the hand of then-President Abdullah Gül’s wife, Hayrunnisa Gül, during an official event.

Most officers in the fiercely secularist military of the time had refused to shake the first lady’s hand due to her headscarf, a visible sign of religious faith that became the most visible symbol of the running fight between secularists and the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is rooted in Turkey’s tradition of political Islam.

The deepest scandal presided over by Güler came the next year, however, when he was posted in the General Staff’s Intelligence Department.

On Dec. 28, a large group was detected crossing the border from the Turkish town of Uludere, known by its predominantly Kurdish inhabitants as Roboski, into Iraq.

The command was given to launch an air strike on the group, who were thought to be members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish self-rule since 1984. The ensuing F-16 strike killed 34 villagers, including 17 children.

Güler has been identified as the first officer to recommend an air strike on the group, according to the BBC.

The general was involve in headline news again in 2014, when tapes were leaked allegedly showing wrongdoing by high-ranking government officials.

One of these tapes allegedly featured the voices of Ahmet Davutoğlu, the foreign minister at the time, intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, and Güler.

On the tape, the voice said to be Güler’s pledges his support to Fidan’s National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) in its operations to aid Syrian rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and tells Davutoğlu the Turkish Armed Forces are a “necessary tool” for the government, according to the BBC.