al-Ḥayāt Media Center presents a new magazine issue from The Islamic State: “Constantinople #2″

Click here for the first issue.


Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: The Islamic State — “Constantinople Magazine #2″



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GUEST POST: The Conquest of Constantinople: The Islamic State Targets a Turkish Audience

NOTE: As with all guest posts, the opinions expressed below are those of the guest author and they do not necessarily represent the views of this blogs administrator and does not at all represent his employer at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. aims to not only provide primary sources for researchers and occasional analysis of them, but also to allow other young and upcoming students as well as established academics or policy wonks to contribute original analysis on issues related to jihadism. If you would like to contribute a piece, please email your idea/post to azelin [at] jihadology [dot] net.

Click here to see an archive of all guest posts.

The Conquest of Constantinople: The Islamic State Targets a Turkish Audience

By North Caucasus Caucus

“We earnestly desire from our exalted god that He grant us the good news of the conquest of Istanbul and other places, and in that vein we patiently continue.” – Konstantiniyye, June 2015, pp.6


The Conquest of Constantinople

On 01 June 2015, official Islamic State (IS) media outlet al-Hayat Media released the first issue of a new Turkish language magazine entitled, Konstantiniyye (the transliteration of the Ottoman spelling of Constantinople). The lay out and design of the 46-page magazine are familiar to those who have read some of al-Hayat’s other publications such as Dabiq and Istok, a similar specifically Russian-language magazine just released several weeks prior to Konstantiniyye. While all the previous issues of IS’s magazine, Dabiq, had been translated into Turkish, this is the first official publication from al-Hayat directed at a Turkish audience and could be an indication of IS leadership no longer caring as much about provoking the Turkish government.

Content and Themes Directed at a Turkish Audience

The first issue of Konstantiniyye was entitled, “The Conquest of Constantinople.” In the introduction of the magazine, al-Hayat lays out its goals and bemoans that “the people of Turkey, especially Muslims, have been deprived of much of the multitude of news, writings, and videos coming out of the Islamic State each day.” To rectify this, al-Hayat states that they established a dedicated Turkey desk, which will provide official translations of all al-Hayat publications as well as publish Konstantiniyye monthly. Konstantiniyye specifically for a Turkish audience and focusing on “topics of interest to Muslims in Turkey about the Islamic State.” The writers go on to say, “We have tried not to overwhelm the reader by taking care to keep our writings short.” The release of the magazine appears to have been timed to coincide with two events in Turkey – the annual celebration of the conquest of Constantinople and the Turkish national elections.

Conquest of Istanbul

The centerpiece of the magazine is an article entitled, “The Conquest of Constantinople.” The magazine was released two days after Turkey’s annual celebration of “Fetih Gunu,” the day commemorating the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453. The commemoration of this event has grown considerably over the last decade and become a much more prominent event in Turkish popular consciousness. The impressive panorama museum, constructed in 2006, remains a very popular tourist attraction. (I visited myself in 2014 and had to wait in line for more than 45 minutes to enter). A film about the conquest, Fetih 1453 was released in February 2012 and was the most expensive and highest grossing movie in Turkish history. Clips from Fetih 1453 were used in the al-Hayat Balkans-focused release, “Honor in Jihad.”

The article seeks to tie the conquest of Constantinople and modern day Istanbul into IS’s broader narrative about the pre-destined nature of Caliphate and the final apocalyptic battles at al-Amaq and Dabiq. Based primarily on the hadiths of Abu Hurairah, the author writes, “Allah’s messenger [Muhammed]…told us the good news that Constantinople would also be conquered. Constantinople was conquered before, but the conquest referred to in this good news has not yet occurred.” However, the conquest does not refer to taking the city by force. The author writes,  “As can be understood from these hadiths, close to the Last Hour, the city that was formerly known as Constantinople and now is known as Istanbul will be conquered with the call of takbir and without weapons or blood.” The discussion of the conquest of Istanbul is likely in line with previous claims that IS will conquer Rome. This is not an actual goal, but more to energize a potential Turkish audience.

Following “The Conquest of Constantinople,” the magazine features a poem about Istanbul (a full translation of the poem can be found at the end of this article). The popularity of poetry among jihadis has been well chronicled among many nationalities of foreign fighters (Thomas Hegghammer has written on this topic extensively, as has The New Yorker). This mirrors the increased volume of original IS-focused nasheeds regularly released throughout the last few months.

Elections and Democracy

The Conquest of Constantinople2

There ar e two sections on democracy, one entitled, “Democracy was Ignited ” and the other “The Qur’an is for the Dead and Democracy is for the Living.” Both articles lay out standard Salafi arguments about the incompatibility of being a Muslim and participating in democratic systems, as well as how the democratic systems will ultimately fall just like communism and socialism. As a potential indicator of writers knowing their audience, the first article included a meme popular on more religiously conservative Turkish Facebook pages, featuring US soldiers raiding a house in Iraq with the caption, “Open the door, Democracy is coming!” The title of the second article presents the idea that some Muslims have been deceived into believing that the Qur’an does not apply to them in their everyday life, therefore there is a need for democracy.

While unlikely coordinated, a Turkish Salafi group headed by Halis Bayancuk (Ebu Hanzala), similarly launched an anti-voting campaign. Though often associated with IS in both the Turkish and Western media, Bayancuk publicly stated in May 2015 that he has not pledged allegiance to IS emir Baghdadi, but some IS members call him their brother and he calls some IS members his brothers in religion. Using the slogan, “Don’t vote, honor your creator,” Bayancuk’s websites, Tevhidgundem, Tevhiddersleri, and Tevhiddergisi, laid out the organization’s strategy and goals. Laying out both real world and virtual tactics, goals included distributing hundreds of thousands of brochures and hanging a similar number of billets in 30 major cities around the country as well as sending five million e-mails and hashtag bombing (having supporters all tweeting at 9pm local time in order to get the campaign’s hashtags trending). On 04 June, #OyKullanmaYaratıcınaŞirkKoşma (Don’t vote, don’t undermine your creator) and #OyKullanmaRabbineSirkKosma (Don’t vote, don’t undermine your lord) did briefly trend in Turkey. Under the hashtag, supporters posted photos of themselves posting billets and using graffiti stencils to deface political advertisements throughout the country.

Considering the enviable over 85% turnout for the election, the campaign likely had a negligible effect on the overall outcome of the election. However, it shows a growing coordination and support base for Salafi groups. A similar, but much smaller campaign was launched during the last national election in 2011. One major difference was the attempt to get grass roots support – providing instructions on how people could personally get involved as well as PDFs of the brochures and stickers so supporters could have them produced in one of Turkey’s ubiquitous print shops.

Other Turkey Focused Content and Other Standard IS Propaganda

The Conquest of Constantinople3

The final two articles, calibrated to resonate specifically with a Turkish audience, are a dietary fatwa and an article about Palestinians in the Yarmouk camp. The fatwa focuses on how people living in the Islamic State should not eat meat brought in from Turkey (such as pre-packaged meat sold in grocery stores). The primary reason against eating this meat, according to the fatwa, is the animals are not slaughtered in accordance with proper rules and those handling the meat are not actually Muslims. Stories about processed meat in Turkey not being halal have existed for years (though the authors claim they have insider information on the topic). Additionally Palestinian issues have had great resonance among a large portion of the Turkish population, not just Salafis or the very religiously conservative.

The remainder of the magazine is standard IS media material – a translation of an address by IS spokesman Ebu Muhammed al Adnani entitled, “The Killers and Those who are Killed (originally released in March 2015), justification for the destruction of Iraqi antiquities, and a profile of Boko Haram and its pledge of allegiance to IS. The material is generally short and punchy and with the purpose of convincing readers the necessity to immigrate to the Islamic State.

Distribution and Reach

The website, appears to have been the first to post the magazine, linking to the PDF uploaded to As of this writing, according Topsy, 437 tweets linked directly to the PDF. According to a registry, the website was established on 15 March 2015 and is registered to an owner in the Uskudar neighborhood of Istanbul. replaced the first Turkish language IS website,, which was shut down in February 2015. The website is currently acting as the primary source for the distribution of Turkish language translations of official material from al-Hayat. Other pro-IS websites, such as and, both mirrored the content and linked to the PDF (Takva even provided a Kurdish-language version of the table of contents to advertise the magazine).

Konstantiniyye reflects the steadily increasing volume of Turkish language IS propaganda has throughout 2015. Takva Haber (which had a predecessor site and Youtube channel focused on covering the Islamic State of Iraq in 2009) and Enfal Medya have been the two primary websites providing pro-IS media coverage in Turkey. Along with providing coverage on wide range of issues (from Boko Haram to negative coverage about police shootings in the US), both sites produce original Turkey-specific IS stories. Such stories include reports about Turkish IS members killed fighting in Syria/Iraq or by airstrikes, the arrest of supporters trying to enter IS-controlled territory, or just links to guides on how to avoid surveillance from unmanned aircraft.

While these sites are both openly pro-IS in their orientation, they are not official Turkish language IS websites. However, they have been helping to build an audience and are now assisting in the dissemination of official IS propaganda. For example, both Takva and Enfal cross publish the daily IS news updates put together by Darulhilafe. If al-Hayat is successfully increases its output of Turkish language translations, there will be a number of websites and social media disseminators ready to assist.


The Conquest of Constantinople4

The triumphant discussions of the release of the magazine indicate several things. First, the online infrastructure for the distribution of the magazine and other IS propaganda has been slowly building throughout 2015.  The audience for future releases will know exactly where to find it. Second, al-Hayat now appears to have sufficient Turkish-language assets to produce a far higher volume of translations and original content. Third, al-Hayat understands the Turkish political and social situation well enough to time its releases accordingly. Some of the themes and messages in Konstantiniyye could resonate with a larger audience (though likely still a relatively small minority) in Turkey outside of just IS supporters. Fourth and most importantly, IS leadership is not worried about openly trying to recruit Turkish citizens to join the organization. While individual Turkish foreign fighters have long recruited other Turkish citizens in person or through social media, this is the first open move by the organization as a whole to target Turkish citizens. This could ultimately indicate a broader shift in the approach of IS leadership towards the Turkish government.

*Translation of Konstantiniyye Poem (done by a friend of mine):

Oh, Istanbul!

Who sheltered those who believe that Allah is one

Who treated us as fatherless children

We knew that you too were not accepting of this injustice

We felt this suffering in your silence

Oh Istanbul!

You consented to profanity in your streets

You filled the streets with harams

What happened to you that in such a short time

You yielded to despots, oppressors, and infidels

Oh Istanbul!

Roar, shout, rise up already – enough of this silence

Don’t shelter oppressors – let this treason end

Open your bosom to your real children already

The good news that was promised to you is so close

Oh Istanbul!

Certainly you will be conquered

You will bow your head in worship

Even if you stay under false gods for a century

You will surely be reunited with your freedom

North Caucasus Caucus is written by a Washington, D.C.-based analyst. Views here are his alone. Read more at and follow at Twitter at @ncaucasuscaucus.

The Clear Banner: Turkish Foreign Fighters and the Ogaden

The Clear Banner sub-blog on is primarily focused on Sunni foreign fighting. It does not have to just be related to the phenomenon in Syria. It can also cover any location that contains Sunni foreign fighters. If you are interested in writing on this subject please email me at azelin [at] jihadology [dot] net.

Turkish Foreign Fighters and the Ogaden

By OSMahmood and North Caucasus Caucus

In recent months, there has been a major increase in international media coverage of Turkish citizens fighting alongside The Islamic State (IS). Much of the commentary has focused on the notion that this is abnormal behavior for citizens of the secular state. While this is partially true (the percentage of Turks in IS is even lower than some European countries by comparisons of percentage of total population), it should be recognized that at least for certain communities in Turkey, participating in jihadist conflicts is not abnormal, and those who participate are often honored. To provide a vivid example of this trend, this article will focus on a very specific case from 1996 of 14 Turkish foreign fighters who were killed in one of the lesser-known jihadi conflicts.

Turkish Foreign Fighters and the Ogaden

Conflict in the Ogaden

The year 1996 must have been a confusing time to be an aspiring jihadi. With the Dayton Accords ending the war in Bosnia the previous year, and the Khasavyurt Agreement temporarily halting hostilities in Chechnya, two of the premiere jihadist conflicts enticing foreign fighters came to an end. Given this context, some jihadis, including a group of young Turkish citizens, looked further afield to participate in one of the more obscure Islamist conflicts – the battle between ethnic Muslim Somalis and Ethiopian government forces in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia.

The Ogaden – A Basic Background

The Ogaden, consisting of the mainly ethnic Somali-inhabited eastern region of Ethiopia, has long had a contentious history. By the early 20th century, the region slowly came under the domain of the Christian empire based in the highlands of central Ethiopia, though control shifted to the British after the Second World War. The British returned the Ogaden to Ethiopia in 1948, along with the Haud in 1954 (the north-eastern section used as a grazing land by nomadic Somali herders), effectively signaling the demise of a ‘Greater Somalia’ that united all Somali-inhabited lands, much to the chagrin of many Somali nationalists.

The reincorporation of the Ogaden into Ethiopia sparked a host of resistance movements and a devastating Cold War-infused proxy battle with Somalia in 1977-78. Following the collapse of the Mengistu government in Ethiopia in 1991, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) assumed control of the region under Ethiopia’s federal structure. The harmonious relationship between the ONLF and the new Ethiopian government, however, did not last – by 1994 the ONLF had divided, with a wing renouncing its political position in favor of armed resistance.

The Rise and Fall of Islamist Interest in the Ogaden

During this time, the struggle for the Ogaden caught the eye of Islamist actors in Somalia. While the ONLF operated as a secular, nationalist party within Ethiopia, often accused of narrowly representing the Ogaden clan, al-Ittihaad al-Islami (AIAI) in Somalia developed a branch focused on the Ogaden that infused Somali irredentism with Islamist rhetoric, adding a new, albeit somewhat peripheral dimension to the struggle. The conflict was often portrayed in terms of Somali Muslims rising up against a Christian entity. Based in Luuq along the Ethiopian-Somali border, AIAI’s Ogaden wing also established training camps within the Ogaden itself, and even conducted a series of attacks in Ethiopia’s two largest cities in 1995-6.

Osama bin Laden also developed an interest in the Ogaden during his stay in Sudan from 1992-96, so much so that during his August 1996 declaration of jihad against the United States, the al Qa’ida (AQ) leader referenced the region amongst a host of other global hotspots where Muslims have suffered at the hands of a “Judeo-Christian alliance.” Representatives from al Qa’ida traveled to the Ogaden in the early 1990s and aided in the establishment of training camps, with bin Laden himself reportedly investing $3 million to bring foreign fighters to the region, cementing the Ogaden on AQ’s early 1990s horizon [Note: The vast majority of open-source information regarding AQ activities in the Ogaden during this time period comes from declassified documents in the Harmony Database, obtained by the Combating Terrorism Center and analyzed in its 2007 report Al-Qaida’s (Mis)Adventures in the Horn of Africa].

Ethiopia, however, responded forcefully to the 1995-6 attacks, bombing camps in Luuq on 9 August 1996 and again in January 1997, effectively routing AIAI. Combined with Osama bin Laden’s move to Afghanistan and AQ’s struggles in Somalia, the Ogaden likely fell off AQ’s map. With AIAI decimated, resistance to Ethiopian rule returned to the realm of the secular, clan-based ONLF, a stiutation that largely persists to the present day.

Turkish Involvement in the Ogaden

Much of the information for this article was drawn from Turkish language sites dedicated to Turkish Islamist martyrs killed in conflicts outside Turkey (as well as those killed fighting Kurdish separatists), such as and These websites purport to reproduce contemporary reporting from the time of the fighters’ deaths and often provide images of the news articles, primarily from local newspapers. Due to the age and second hand nature of much of this material, some caveats apply, especially as data on Turkish fighters who may have gone to fight but ultimately survived is not available.

As in Syria, looking into the backgrounds of fighters reveals connections to other jihadist conflicts and/or friends and family serving as pulling factors. Below we will describe the experience of a number of the Turkish fighters – who likely joined with the Islamist AIAI’s Ogaden wing, and were all reportedly killed along the Ethiopian-Somali border on two different days between August and December 1996.

Turkish Foreign Fighters and the Ogaden2

Backgrounds and Parental Involvement

From the available information, the majority of the 14 Turkish fighters killed in Ogaden had similar backgrounds – early 20s, often college students or professionals, and idealistic. One fighter, Nureddin Cingöz from Kozan, Adana, had graduated from a theological imam-hatip high school, where he allegedly won first place in a hadith knowledge competition. However, when he left with his friend, Bayram Ali Düz, for the Ogaden, both were students at Konya’s Selcuk University.


In some cases, fighters seemed to travel without support from their families. For example, Gökhan Süfürler graduated from a vocational high school in Istanbul before taking a job as an accountant working at a company in Kartal. After he left his job, Süfürler’s father wanted him to work at a different job before completing his military service, but Süfürler “claimed to have higher ideals,” according to his father. According to a letter he sent home, Süfürler wrote that he felt guilty living a good life in Turkey while injustice and deprivation occurred elsewhere. In an interview with Selam Gazetesi, Sufurler’s father explained that while he was born in Istanbul, his family was originally from Salonica, Greece and was quite secular. However, his father and other family members started praying more regularly after his son’s death.

In other cases, families appear to have been supportive. In an interview after his death in the Ogaden, Ismail Ozturk’s father stated that his son’s death should not be treated as a tragedy, but as martyrdom. Ozturk’s father went on to say that when his sons were young he brought back Islamic books from Libya where he was working, and that he tried to pass on his religious convictions. Ismail took his upbringing to heart and went to Bosnia, but the war ended two or three weeks after his arrival. He returned to Turkey changed and even more committed to jihad. He later tried to join the conflict in Chechnya, but was turned back by Russian preventative measures. After these failures, Ozturk decided try his luck in the Ogaden. This time, however, his father allegedly tried to convince him to stay and get married, demonstrating the at times shifting nature of familial support for such activities.

The Bosnian Connection

The conflict in Bosnia appears to have served as a central bridge to the Ogaden, with many fighters meeting there and deciding their next destination. One figure who seems to be especially important as a link between Bosnia and the Ogaden is Atilla Saltan. A young man from Agri in eastern Turkey, Atilla eventually got a job in advertising in Istanbul. While there, he became engaged in the study of the Quran and other religious activites, eventually leaving his job. He moved to Germany, staying with family and decorating a local mosque. His apparent motivation was to make his way to Bosnia to fight, arriving there in November 1995. When the ceasefire came into effect on 14 December 1995, however, his opportunity vanished. Nonetheless, Saltan met other foreign fighters who informed him of a new fight in the Ogaden. In May 1996, Saltan left Turkey for the Ogaden with 10 friends, likely including Ismail Ozturk. It is known that AQ recruited foreign fighters in Bosnia for other external operations, and that the group was active in training foreign fighters in the Ogaden around this time. It is possible that one of the other foreign fighters who informed Saltan of the fight in the Ogaden was one of these recruiters.

Several other fighters in the Ogaden had some experience in Bosnia, though its unknown if they were included in the 10 who travelled with Saltan. Ersoy Tekin reportedly fought in Bosnia and returned to Turkey, but became restless. In addition, after arriving in Bosnia in 1996, Bilal Ukbe met two childhood friends, identified only by their first names Yusuf and Numan. Realizing there was nothing left for them to do with the fight against the Serbs essentially over, they returned together to Turkey. Nonetheless, soon after returning, they also travelled to the Ogaden.

Turkish Media

Some fighers moved back and forth between the Ogaden and Turkey, taking advantage of a relatively open media environment in Turkey to publicize their activities. For example, Saltan at one point returned to Turkey from Ethopia in order to gather material support for the fighting. He participated in television and radio programs in various cities. Apparently an effective orator, Saltan traveled openly for two months, calling for support for the fight in the Ogaden. While he was in Turkey, his close friend Ozturk was killed, causing Saltan to return to fight. The story of four other Turks was reported on the front-page of the 1990s Islamist political magazine Yorunge (Orbit), with the headling “They ran to martyrdom in the Ogaden” – another indication of Turkish media interest in the activities of its citizens in the Ogaden.

Experiences in the Ogaden

Historically, foreign fighters arrive to find their conflicts far less hospitable than expected – the Turks arriving in the Ogaden were no exception. Surprisingly, two who arrived in October 1996, Cingöz and Düz, informed their family they received no combat training. Düz even called his father from the Ogaden, reportedly telling him he wanted to return home, and shift to supporting militant efforts in the Ogaden through material means from Turkey. While the recorded articles do not go into much further detail, AQ members operating in area in the early 1990s complained about the divisive nature of the Somali clan system, food insecurity, and the harsh local environment. In line with the concerns they expressed, all 14 of the recorded Turkish fighters who arrived between May and October 1996 would be dead before the end of the year.


Ebu Abdurrahamn al-Hetavi (Arabic for Hatay, a southern province in Turkey), identifying himself as a spokesman for the Foreign Relations Bureau of Islamic Jihad, released a statement on 17 August 1996 claiming a litany of victories and accomplishments during 35 skirmishes in June and July 1996, including the death 987 Ethiopian soliders and the liberation of the towns of Luug (Luuq) and Belet Hevva (Beled Hawo). Al-Hetavi’s statement also included a description of attacks on hotels in Addis Ababa and the assasination of a “transportation minister” (likely the failed attempt on the life of Ethiopian Transport and Communication Minister Abdul al-Majid Hussein), both claimed by AIAI. Interestingly, while the publicization of the incidents in Addis reveals the ties between the group of Turkish foreign fighters and the AIAI’s Ogaden wing, al-Hetavi gets some details incorrect (such as claiming Hussein was killed when he survived the assasination attempt), demonstrating a certain disconnect with other aspects of the movement.

Furthermore, the exact nature of the “liberation” of Luuq that al-Hetavi refers to is unclear, and the death count of Ethiopian soldiers is high (likely exaggerated). Rather, al-Hetavi’s claims came shortly after a cross-border raid by Ethiopian forces on AIAI militants in Luuq and Beled Hawo on 9 August 1996, in an attempt to eradicate the movement. While Ethiopian forces did not fully succeed on this occasion, al-Hetavi’s statement potentially serves as a response to that event, demonstrating that the Islamist forces were still active and strong in the cities, and had inflicted serious damage on the enemy. In addition, the number of skirmishes decribed reveals the persistent low-level guerilla conflict between Islamist actors and Ethiopian forces in the Ogaden at this time, in addition to the more high profile terrorist bombing campaign in Ethiopia’s urban areas.

The statement also reported that four Turks (Resul Aran, Ersoy Tekin, Unal Ekici, and Ismail Ozturk), in addition to a Frenchman, an Algerian, a Saudi, a Gambian, and three Egyptians, were killed. The presence of other foreign fighters emphasizes the Ogaden as a battleground for non-Turkish nationalities as well, consistent with reports of AQ attempts to funnel militants into the region in the early 1990s.


An attack on AIAI forces on 20 December 1996 devastated the Turkish fighters in the Ogaden. According to a 1 January 1997 statement from external relations spokesman for Ittihadi Islami, Ebu Yasir, ten more Turkish citizens were killed in this battle, along with 48 other foreign fighters (including two Bosnians and three Egyptians). This attack ended much of the resistance, at least with international participation, although Ethiopian forces returned in January 1997, fully routing remaining AIAI forces for good. Some of the families did not receive news of their sons’ death until February 1997, after the final battle. Response within Turkey varied, with Saltan’s family holding public prayers to honor him in Agri and Istanbul sometime in 1997, while others seem to have been confused by their sons’ choices.



It was true in 1996 and it remains true today: as long as there are impressionable and idealistic young men, along with relatively permissive environments, some will waste their lives on doomed foreign ventures. Despite the apparently miserable experience of the fighters in the Ogaden and the inability of AIAI to achieve its goals, they went on to inspire others to participate in similar conflicts. Ismail Ozturk’s twin brother, Osman was not able to join his brother and their mutual friend (Atilla Saltan) when they went to the Ogaden in summer 1996. When the pair was killed, a friend said “….the flame of jihad on the Allah’s path flared up in [Osman’s] heart.” He chose to follow in brother’s footsteps by traveling to the Hizbul-Mujahideen Camp in Azat, mirroring his brother’s experience when Indian forces killed him in Serter Nekts, Jammu, Kashmir, in July 1997. These twin brothers, killed thousands of miles away from each other in other people’s wars, serve as potent examples of the violent dynamics that continue in places like Syria today.

OSMahmood is an Africa analyst primarily focused on the Horn of Africa and northern Nigeria.

North Caucasus Caucus is written by a Washington, D.C.-based analyst. Views here are his alone. Read more at and follow at Twitter at @ncaucasuscaucus.

The Clairvoyant: Turks Or Uyghurs Arrested In Indonesia?

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that four Turks had been arrested in Poso, Indonesia related to links with the Islamic State. It was later revealed though that in fact they were Uyghurs from Xinjiang, China. Why the confusion? There is actually a relatively simple answer to this, which was recently provided by a jihadi online that also helps us better understand some of the processes for how individuals are making their way toward Syria.

According to an individual that uses the name Abdullah Abu Bakr, Uyghurs have a difficult time obtaining Chinese passports to travel abroad. I personally cannot attest or know the veracity of this claim since I do not follow Chinese policies on this issue closely. That said, if one takes it as stated, because of this, these wannabe Uyghur foreign fighters then create fake passports, specifically from Turkey. He then claims they venture to Malaysia or Thailand where they might spend some time in prison, but afterwards because they were caught with these fake Turkish passports they are then deported to Turkey. Once in Turkey, according to him, Turkish officials view the Uyghurs as Turkic peoples and therefore allow them to safely stay in Turkey, which then allows the Uyghurs to safely get into Syria. This again raises questions about Turkish potential in enabling of the foreign fighter flow into Syria. He then warns that if any of this process gets snuffed out then the individuals attempting to fight jihad in Syria (and/or Iraq) will get sent back to China and face prison there. In part, this is likely why Indonesia at first believed the individuals arrested were from Turkey.

Of course, he does not mention Indonesia, but I do not see why this process couldn’t have played out there as well, whereby individuals from Xinjiang using fake Turkish passports traversed to Indonesia. Once there, the hope being to be deported then to Turkey so they can make easy entrance into Syria. This illustrates not only the efforts that go into trying to get to Syria, but also highlights that there is a network of individuals that has created a system to try and get individuals over there even if the process might take some time, arduous, and risky. It also likely shows that there are more interlinked connections between the different jihadi facilitation networks in south/southeast Asia as well as how they then connect back to the facilitation networks based in Turkey and/or the Arab world.

What the Syrian conflict has done is regenerate old networks, connect separate past networks that now overlap, and the creation of new ones that are now part of the broader echo system related to global jihadism. These connections created for going to join up to fight in Syria/Iraq will also be important for any potential returnees and/or the use of external operations if it is in the cards either for the Islamic State or al-Qaeda’s branch Jabhat al-Nusra. All of this just highlights that there is a very sophisticated methodology for ways in which individuals not so close to Syria get there that helps not only those that want to get there, but cements key relations that could be relevant to future jihad in south/southeast Asian countries.

As-Saḥāb Media presents a new release from al-Qā’idah’s Shaykh ‘Aṭīyyat Allah al-Lībī: “Indisputable Answers for Turkish Jihādīs”


Click the following link for a safe PDF copy: Shaykh ‘Aṭīyyat Allah al-Lībī — “Indisputable Answers for Turkish Jihādīs”



To inquire about a translation for this release for a fee email:

GUEST POST: “Turkish Fighters in Syria, Online and Off”

NOTE: As with all guest posts, the opinions expressed below are those of the guest author and they do not necessarily represent the views of this blogs administrator and does not at all represent his employer at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. aims to not only provide primary sources for researchers and occasional analysis of them, but also to allow other young and upcoming students as well as established academics or policy wonks to contribute original analysis on issues related to jihadism. If you would like to contribute a piece, please email your idea/post to azelin [at] jihadology [dot] net.

Past Guest Posts:

Mark Youngman, “Book Review of David Malet’s “Foreign Fighters: Transnational Identity in Civil Conflicts”,” June 20, 2013.

Hazim Fouad, “Salafi-Jihadists and non-jihadist Salafists in Egypt – A case study about politics and methodology (manhaj),” April 30, 2013.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Tara Vassefi, “Perceptions of the “Arab Spring” Within the Salafi-Jihadi Movement,” November 19, 2012.

Jack Roche, “The Indonesian Jamā’ah Islāmiyyah’s Constitution (PUPJI),” November 14, 2012.

Kévin Jackson, “The Pledge of Allegiance and its Implications,” July 27, 2012.

Behnam Said, “A Brief Look at the History and Power of Anasheed in Jihadist Culture,” May 31, 2012.

Jonah Ondieki and Jake Zenn, “Gaidi Mtaani,” April 24, 2012.

Joshua Foust, “Jihadi Ideology Is Not As Important As We Think,” January 25, 2011.

Charles Cameron, “Hitting the Blind-Spot- A Review of Jean-Pierre Filiu’s “Apocalypse in Islam,” January 24, 2011.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, “Why Jihadi Ideology Matters,” January 21, 2011.

Joshua Foust, “Some Inchoate Thoughts on Ideology,” January 19, 2011.

Marissa Allison, “Militants Seize Mecca: Juhaymān al ‘Utaybī and the Siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca,” June 9, 2010.

Turkish Fighters in Syria, Online and Off

By North Caucasus Caucus

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This piece provides a granular look at the backgrounds of Turkish citizens fighting in Syria, building on a recent article by Soner Cagaptay and Aaron Y. Zelin on the challenges Turkey may face in the future emanating from jihadis operating near Turkey’s southern border and the eventual return home of Turkish jihadis. While I have spent a considerable amount of time living, working and studying in Turkey, I am by no means an expert on Turkish jihadi groups or jihadi movements in general. I am a researcher on the politics of the Caucasus, but while researching foreign fighters in Syria from the Caucasus, I continually noted their engagement with Turkish jihadi material and felt it was an issue that needed further exploration.


Over the last three decades, Turkish citizens have travelled to fight and die in conflicts both close and distant. Turkish citizens have fought in Iraq, Afghanistan (both against the Soviets and the United States), Bosnia, and the North Caucasus, sometimes occupying leadership positions in Islamist armed groups.  For example, Cevdet Doger (aka Emir Abdulla Kurd) was second-in-command of foreign fighters in the North Caucasus before his death in May 2011.


Cevdet Doger and recovered Turkish identification tables, Source:

I will not venture to estimate how many Turkish citizens are fighting in Syria. In August 2012, Turkish journalist Adem Ozkose reported on the deaths of four Turkish fighters in Aleppo and said they were part of a group of 50 Turks fighting in that region. In the year since, it is conceivable that this number has grown along with Syria’s general population of foreign fighters.


There is a large amount of Turkish pro-jihadi material on Facebook relating to Syria. For example, the page, “Suriye İslam Devrimini Destekliyoruz,” (“We Support Syria’s Islamic Revolution”) has over 11,000 “Likes.” Al-Nusra Front (Nusret Cephesi in Turkish) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) both have Turkish language fan pages which are regularly shut down by Facebook but are always quickly reestablished. Turks interested in following jihadi activity in Syria are not wanting for online news coverage.

Just as Arabic-language material is translated and posted on Turkish-language sites, material from Turkish languages pages makes its way to Islamist users from other countries. For example, the pro-Islamist Turkish news website, Islah Haber, which regularly publishes news on Turkish fighter activity and deaths, uploaded an Arabic language video on 9 July 2013  that included several Turks speaking (with Arabic subtitles) about why they went to Syria. One fighter emphasized Assad’s killing of women and children and the hope of establishing a sharia-based state as a prime motivator.


The caption identifies him as “Abdullah Azzam the Turk, connected to Thughur Bilad al Sham,” Source: Islah Haber

YouTube videos are sometimes used in recruitment efforts. The Russian language website,, released a video on 03 July 2013 from Emir Seyfullah, an ethnic Chechen and then-spokesman of ISIS-affiliate Jaish al-Muhajirin wa Ansar. In the video, Emir Seyfullah speaks in heavily accented Turkish, calling for Turks to come help establish sharia in the land of Sham; his speech is intercut with footage of Syrian military jets on bombing runs. Jamestown’s Mairbek Vatchagaev wrote that Seyfullah is from the Pankisi Gorge region of Georgia. However, it is possible that he lived in Istanbul before the war in Syria. Many former fighters from the North Caucasus continue to live in Turkey. This has led to violence in the past, such as the September 2011 assassination of two former fighters, allegedly by Russian security services, in Istanbul’s Zeytinburnu neighborhood.


Screenshot of YouTube video about Turkish martyrs in Syria

The amount of material about Syria uploaded onto YouTube in all languages is nearly endless. However, one recent video provided insight into the extent of Turkish fighter involvement in Syria. On 05 July 2013, an account (now-deleted), associated with the Facebook page, “Suriye Devrimi Sehidleri,” (“Martyrs of the Syrian Revolution”) uploaded a video entitled, “Turkiyeli Sehidler” (Martyrs from Turkey). The video shows the images of 27 different alleged Turkish fighters killed in Syria. Some of the photos included full names, some noms-de-guerre, and others include hometowns in Turkey. The Turks in the video came from many different parts of the country, but eastern Turkey stood out, particularly Gazianatep, Diyarbakir, and Adana. The men ranged in age from as young as 17 to old men with long grey beards. Below is additional detail on three of the fighters, each case providing interesting insight into the different roles Turkish foreign fighters are playing in Syria, as well as insight into their backgrounds in Turkey.



Headline from Yalova regional news website, “A martyr killed by Assad’s soldiers is buried,” Source:

Ahmet Zorlu, with his long hair and goatee is one of the most recognizable faces on Turkish jihadi social media. Since his death, his image regularly appears in al-Nusra Front Turkish language fan pages and other pro-jihadi Turkish language media.

The 30-year-old, also known as Emir Ahmed Seyyaf, was killed along with four other Turkish fighters in an operation in Han el-Asel, near Aleppo in March 2013. Zorlu, reportedly a leader of a group of Turkish fighters, likely arrived in Syria a few months prior to the battle in Han el-Asel.

After his death, his body was returned from Syria to his hometown of Yalova, south of Istanbul on the shores of the Marmara Sea. A large funeral was held at the Yalova Central Mosque, and he was buried in the city’s cemetery. A video of the funeral can be found here. The return of the body across the border, as well as the highly visible and public nature of the funeral and burial, indicate that his “martyrdom” was not a closely guarded secret.


Banner photo from Turkish language al-Nusra Facebook fan page: the text reads, “The lands of Sham love martyrs.”


Originally from Adiyaman Province, Abudrrahman Koc is the oldest of the three men, sporting a long greying beard before he arrived in Syria. Koc was a community leader, serving as president of a religious NGO named Garip Der (Garipler Yardımlaşma ve Dayanışma Derneği or Guraba Muslims Association). As recently as June 2012, Koc spoke at a large forum organized by Ozgur Der (Freedom Association) entitled, “We Have Brothers in Prison.” Established in 2010 and based in the conservative Fatih neighborhood of Istanbul, Garip Der organized the printing and delivery of religious literature to imprisoned Muslims.

Koc arrived in Syria in early January 2013. A video of Koc, likely taken shortly after his arrival in Syria, shows him awkwardly taking target practice and discussing the beautiful weather. A sniper reportedly killed Koc during an attack on the Mengh Airbase near Azaz on 02 July 2013. A group of 12 Islamic NGOs (a list can be found here) organized prayers for Koc and other martyrs killed in Syria and Afghanistan at the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul on 07 July 2013. The general director for Ozgur Der, Ridvan Kaya, delivered a eulogy on Koc followed by a march. Marchers carried a banner bearing Koc’s face along with pictures of Zorlu and other martyrs.


Left: Koc speaking at Ozgur Der event in June 2012, Source: Time Turk
Right: Koc (left) poses with two other fighters, Source: Haksozhaber

At least one of Koc’s associates from Garip Der went with, or followed, him later to Syria. Yakup Senatas, a Kurd from the southeastern town of Siverek was reportedly killed in Syria several weeks after Koc on 25 July 2013 also in the fighting at Mengh Airbase. Photos of the two men appeared on social media soon after Senates death. One photo at a rally in Istanbul show—Koc leading a group of protestors while Senates holds a banner.


Koc (center) speaks into megaphone while Senates holds banner, Source: Facebook


Metin Ekinci died fighting in Aleppo in August 2012. His death was initially reported on Syrian state television, where his Turkish state ID was aired along with a photo of his body. A funeral service was held in Ekinci’s native Bingol Province at the Haci Hasip Mosque, and published the text of a special sermon given in Ekinici’s honor. Before going to Syria, Ekinci had been connected with at least one religious NGO. In November 2011, Ekinci spoke at an Izmir, Turkey-based organization, Ilim; Der (Wisdom Foundation). The content of the speech was relatively moderate and focused on basic religious issues. Ilim; Der is an Islamic research and cultural foundation. Its website produces a number of lectures with Saudi and other Arab religious figures with Turkish subtitles. The most interesting aspect of Ekinci’s martyrdom is the fact that his brother, Azad Ekinci, was one of the most wanted men in Turkey less than ten years earlier.


Left: YouTube video of Ekinici speaking at Ilim;Der Right: Ekinci in Syria. Screenshot is from “Turkiyeli Sehitleri” video.


Azad Ekcinci was implicated in the 20 November 2003 bombing of the HSBC building in Istanbul, part of a series of al-Qaeda linked bombings in that city which killed 57 people. He was identified as being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and had a code name: “Abu Nidal.” It was later reported that Azad Ekinci died in a suicide attack in Iraq in January 2004, though law enforcement officials in Istanbul denied these claims.


As Zelin and Cagatay pointed out in their article, Turkey could face some serious issues as the conflict in Syria continues—concerns stemming from the uncertainty of where jihadis will turn their attention once the fight is over in Syria. Fighters’ connections to various charities and NGOs suggest at least an informal network of supporters among more conservative religious elements in Turkey. As the conflict drags on, it is likely that Turks will continue to travel to Syria to fight and establish links to the international jihadi networks that dominate the fighting in Syria’s north.


Man carries picture of Ahmet Zorlu at march at Fatih Mosque, 07 July 2013, Source: HaksozHaber

North Caucasus Caucus is written by a Washington, D.C.-based analyst. Views here are his alone. Read more at

Check out my new article at CNN co-authored with Soner Cagaptay: “Turkey’s Jihadi Dilemma”


In late May, the Turkish government uncovered a plan to use Sarin gas as part of a potential bomb attack in southern Turkey. Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), was allegedly behind the plot, and the subsequent arrests highlighted the increasing trouble jihadi radicals could pose for Ankara. Indeed, the longer Turkey turns a blind eye to jihadi rebels crossing its territory into Syria, the more likely there will be blowback.

The reality is that providing jihadists access to a neighboring country can result in unintended consequences as radicals ultimately bite the hand that feeds them, something Pakistan should have learned over Afghanistan, and Bashar al-Assad has discovered as Syria-backed al Qaeda elements from Iraqi territory have turned against the regime in Damascus.

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