Members of the anti-American nationalist Turkish Youth Union (TGB) attacked an American soldier at the nation’s İncirlik Air Base on Saturday, attempting to cover his head in a sack and proclaiming that America was “responsible for… the terrorism in our country.”
Two men, identified as Turkish Nationalists Yalçın Semir Akarsu and Cenk Kızılırmak, recorded their encounter with an unnamed American soldier. While Kızılırmak filmed, Akarsu spoke with the soldier, accusing the United States of being responsible for terrorism in the Middle East and the oppression of Turkish people.
“You put sacks on the head of our soldiers in 2003. You are responsible for this and the terror events in our country,” Akarsu says. “Bombs explode everyday, we receive the news of martyrs. You are responsible for this. You are not able to leave your air base, but we are here, entering your air base, and put sacks on your head.”
The video then shows the American soldier immediately blocking Akarsu’s attempt to put a bag over his head, telling him to stop.
Akarsu references an incident in 2003 in which American soldiers in Iraq arrested eleven Turkish special forces members on tips that they were plotting attacks on either the U.S. troops or allied Kurdish forces. “The U.S. military was acting on reports of disturbing activities that they might have been involved in,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said at the time. Some Turkish nationalists, unlike the Turkish government, have failed to move past this incident, and particularly the imagery of Turkish special forces being led to an undisclosed location wearing sacks on their heads.
The Turkish Youth Union is a nationalist, Kemalist group, adhering to the ideology of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, which calls for a more secular but solidly statist Turkish government, designed as a counter to the imposing statism of radical Islamic groups. The TGB describes itself as being against the “expansionism” of other countries at the expense of Turkey, and particularly opposes the presence of Americans in Turkey. It is currently celebrating its tenth anniversary.
The group rose to international prominence with a similar attack in 2014, in which members of the group succeeded in sacking three American soldiers. Some members, according to video surfacing of the event, placed sacks over the heads of soldiers while others hurled dye at them, most chanting anti-American slogans like “Yankee go home!” The 2014 attack was particularly alarming to observers because it occurred in a highly-trafficked tourist area of Istanbul in front of an American missile destroyer, the USS Ross.
Nationalist groups besides the TGB have become an growing concern for Turkey under the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and not just against Americans. In July 2015, a number of attacks occurred against Asians in Turkey, in response to a growing crackdown on Islam in China. In response to the news that those living in the Uighur province of Xinjiang were limited in public practice of Islam, a group of nationalists attacked a Korean tourist group, mistaking them for Chinese, and a Chinese restaurant run by a Uighur cook, a member of the ethnic group the nationalists were trying to defend.
A month later, in a separate incident, a mob attacked a group of street musicians for playing the Italian song “Bella Ciao,” protesting that “Jewish marches” were not allowed in Turkey.