The Jihadis and the Turkish Elections

One of the unifying themes of the Sunni jihadi movement as it has developed over the past half-century has been the view that Western-style democracy is an affront to Islam. Even worse, it is a religion fundamentally incompatible with the faith, a version of polytheism (shirk) in which authority is derived from the popular will as opposed to God’s will, and in which manmade laws are adopted and implemented as opposed to God’s law, the Shari‘a. Yet as the jihadi movement’s unity has frayed over the past decade with the rise of the Islamic State, so too has the united front against democracy. Last month’s elections in Turkey, which saw President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, head of the Islamist AKP, reelected to another five-year term in office, brought divisions over the matter into the sharpest relief yet, as ideologues debated the legitimacy not only of voting for the Turkish president but

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How Turkey and the election of Erdogan are fragmenting the Jihadi movement

What to make of Turkey is arguably the most controversial issue in the Jihadi movement in Syria today. Is it to be seen as an infidel state? Is its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to be considered an apostate? Is collaboration with Turkey religiously legitimate? What should be the attitude to Erdogan’s victory in last week’s election? These are some of the questions that have bedeviled Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Jihadi group previously affiliated with al-Qaida in an earlier incarnation, and have become the most serious source of division between the group and the al-Qaida loyalists organized in Tanzim Hurras al-Din. HTS’s balancing act Previously, HTS appeared vehemently opposed to any relationship with the Turks, even criticizing groups like Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Deen al-Zinki for cooperating with Turkey on a diplomatic and military level. This was to change radically, however, when HTS openly assisted Turkish forces entering north-western Syria

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A Brief History of Jihadism in Turkey

Despite the Istanbul attacks in 2003, the Turkish fight against terrorism has remained largely synonymous with the fight against Kurdish separatists. To my knowledge, there are few if any in-depth academic studies of Turkish jihadism. Not even the 2003 Istanbul attacks have been closely examined by scholars, despite a wealth of available Turkish sources. At most, there are studies of how the Turkish media covered these events, and the emphasis is on the narrative being used by non-jihadists to describe the phenomenon (see e.g. Gökhan Gökulu’s 2005 M.A. thesis “Terör Eylemlerinin Medyaya Yansıması”). With the exception of Mehmet Faraç’s book İkiz Kulelerden Galata’ya: El Kaide Turka and the reporting of a few other journalists, Turkish writers and intellectuals seem surprisingly uninterested in the phenomenon itself. Although it has been thought that the secular Turks were almost immune to militant Islamism, the Turkish jihadist community appears to be growing. The first

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Are the Uzbeks Going Global?

[Editor’s note: I am thrilled to introduce Einar Wigen, author of the recent FFI report on the IJU, as a guest contributor. Einar interned at FFI last summer and is currently a a student fellow at the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs (NUPI). A fluent Turkish speaker, Einar specialises in jihadism among the Turkics. Not many people produce world-class research as summer interns, so this guy is really someone to look out for in the future.] The Turkic peoples have until now played a fairly peripheral role in global jihadism. They have not attracted much academic attention, and apart from the 2003 Istanbul bombings and the 2008 American Consulate attacks, operations carried out by Turkics have gained little attention. The Waziristan-based group Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) seems to be trying to change this (as Jihadica has suggested before). The IJU broke off from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 2001,

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