The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS) has released its first Turkish-language video, a fiery rant by an unidentified graybeard surrounded by the usual armed thugs in which the Turkish people are urged to reject democracy, overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, fight the United States, and do everything they can to assist the Islamic State and its “Caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
In the video, entitled “A Message to Turkey,” the ISIS spokesman tells the people of Turkey to “stand and fight those crusaders, atheists, and tyrants who have deceived you and made you slaves to the crusaders.”
“All together, and under the orders Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, let’s conquer Istanbul, which the traitor Erdogan works day and night to hand over to the crusaders,” he says, referring to Erdogan as a “lackey” of these “friends of the devil,” who “made you slaves to the crusader United States and sold all of your values.”
Turks are urged to support the Caliphate “wherever you are, and however you can.”
“You need to repent from all the reasons, which are caused by this treacherous Satan and his friends, that bother you,” says the spokesman, referring to Erdogan. “Those who believe, fight on the way of God, while disbelievers fight on the way of Satan.”
Somewhat confusingly, according to Voice of America (VOA), “The unidentified man in the video also accuses Ankara of siding with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the Free Syrian Army.” This will come as a surprise to the PKK militants currently dodging Turkish airstrikes, not to mention the Kurds who think Turkey has been using its new joint anti-ISIS operation with the U.S. as an excuse to crack down on Kurdish separatists.
As VOA notes, Erdogan has taken a great deal of heat for allegedly indulging ISIS and allowing it to move its forces through Turkish territory. Perhaps ISIS has gotten word the Turkey-Syria border will now be secured more vigorously, under the stern eye of U.S. air forces. The commencement of manned American airstrikes from Turkish bases is also certain to infuriate them. Alternatively, there will probably be Erdogan critics who ask if this new ISIS video is a false-flag operation designed to make Erdogan look better by positioning him as an ostensible enemy of ISIS.
The video has been circulating through the usual ISIS social media channels, so the Islamic State’s online supporters appear to believe it is genuine. However, Voice of America notes it lacks the slick production values, flashy graphics, and music typical of most Islamic State productions.
The New York Times notes that this video arrives at a delicate moment for the Erdogan government, as the latest effort to set up a new coalition government after the June electoral earthquake has failed.
The Times writes:
The development helped create the basis for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call for a new election, which would mean the installation of a temporary government just as Turkey is facing new threats from Islamic State militants in neighboring Syria and a re-energized Kurdish insurgency at home.
Erdogan’s critics think he is deliberately sabotaging the formation of a coalition government so he can provoke a crisis in which Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu would be legally required to dissolve his cabinet and hold new elections, where Erdogan hopes to do well by positioning himself as the strong arm of security against threats such as ISIS and the PKK.
In fact, as the NYT puts it, Erdogan critics “say he wants a parliamentary majority to help him achieve his ambitions of changing the Constitution to establish an executive presidency, which would have more power.” Erdogan himself has not been shy about describing Turkey’s Constitution as obsolete, and the presidency too weak.
An effort by ISIS to foment further political unrest, and a not-very-veiled threat to make a move against Istanbul, will rattle an already unstable Turkish political scene, and possibly complicate the joint effort with the United States against ISIS. The UK Independent relates a promise from Turkey’s foreign minister that the effort is due to become a “comprehensive battle” soon. ISIS will want the Turkish people to know it can strike back with terror tactics.
The Islamic State’s video message might also be meant to rattle Turkey’s tourist economy. The UK Express portrays the video as a new source of concern for Britons on holiday in Turkey, who have already been cautioned by the Home Office following the horrific ISIS massacre of vacationers on a beach in Tunisia. “More than 2.5 million British sunseekers visit the country, which has a 98.9 per cent Muslim population, each year,” writes the Express.