Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Turkey's "Deep State" Surfaces in Former President's Words, Deeds in Kurdish Town

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Turkey's "Deep State" Surfaces in Former President's Words, Deeds in Kurdish Town

Article excerpt

When a former president and seven-time prime minister of Turkey says that the country has not one state but two, many naturally sit up and take notice.

When he says this a few days after nationwide riots, sparked by an alleged plot by one of those states to murder a long list of its opponents, it becomes clear that in Turkey, the nature of the state is no abstract political discussion.

Indeed, with two dead and the rioting spreading from the Iranian border to districts of Istanbul, the remarks by Suleyman Demirel made in a mid-November interview with NTV television had a certain urgency to them as well.

"It is fundamental principle that there is one state," Demirel noted-but added, however, "In our country there are two."

Demirel, who was president of Turkey from 1994 to 1999, led a string of governments in the 1970s, '80s and '90s, including one brought to an abrupt end in 1980 by a military coup.

"There is one deep state and one other state," he elaborated. "The state that should be real is the spare one, the one that should be spare is the real one."

On Nov. 9, in the southeastern town of Semdinli, few would have disagreed with Demirel's assessment.

Around lunchtime, eyewitnesses claim, a white "Dogan" car, registered in the central Anatolian city of Konya, drew up near the Umit, or "Hope," bookstore.

The store was run by Seferi Yilmaz, who is widely thought to have been a sympathizer of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the ethnic Kurdish guerrilla organization that has been fighting Turkish troops for some 20 years now in order to realize its aim of Kurdish independence. There is no doubt that Yilmaz had served 15 years in prison for alleged PKK membership.

Reportedly, what happened next was that one of the car's occupants threw a bomb into the bookstore, located in a busy shopping area. The device exploded, killing Yilmaz and seriously wounding another man. The bomber then took flight and headed back for the car. However, the crowd pursued the suspect and surrounded the vehicle. A tussle then ensued, and the occupants of the car reportedly opened fire, killing another man and wounding four others seriously.

The police then arrived, and arrested the car's four occupants, taking them away to a nearby police station. But by this time members of the crowd had broken into the vehicle, allegedly discovering several AK-47 rifles and a Turkish Gendarmerie Intelligence (JITEM) ID-card in the trunk. There was also reportedly a "hit list" of other targets.

Reportedly, many in the crowd also recognized the car's other occupants as plainclothes JITEM officers-claims later borne out as the police prepared to prosecute the four men they had arrested. Three were JITBM NCOs, while the person who allegedly carried out the bombing was a PKK "confessor."

Kurdish groups and human rights organizations have in the past often described how such "confessors"-captured PKK members-sometimes are given the chance to go free or take a lesser punishment in return for betraying other PKK members, or even for carrying out attacks against them.

The discovery that the bombing had apparently been an operation of JITEM-one of the most notorious of the undercover security services operating in Turkey-sparked fury among the local, mainly ethnic Kurdish population. Rioting ensued for several days, and spread to other Kurdish communities across the country.

The story also broke in the Turkish press, with allegations that the attack revealed yet again the existence of the "deep state." It was this dark force to which Demirel subsequently referred. …

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