The Turkish government arrested the first Turkish citizen involved with the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) on February 4. However, rumors ran wild in 2014 of Turkey’s deep ties to the militant group.
Musa Göktas, 38, traveled to Syria with his 15-year-old twins in October. From Hurriyet Daily News:
His wife later reported to police that her husband and children were missing, suspecting that her sons had joined ISIL with their father without telling her.
After spending almost four months with the group, Göktaş returned to Turkey on Jan. 27 in order to sell his house to pay his debts and take his wife over to Syria. However, he was detained by police during an identity check while on a bus in Gaziantep that was traveling to Ankara, where he was living before leaving the country.
“I wanted to join ISIL, which I felt religiously close to,” he told authorities. “I crossed into Syria illegally and took my twin sons, who were born in 2000. We crossed to the region controlled by ISIL. I told the militants that I wanted to join them. They interviewed us for 10-12 days regarding religious education. They took us in after accepting that we were Muslims at the end of this education. [In Syria] I worked in a kitchen with my sons. We were receiving $270 in total, $90 for each of us. I have never been involved in any armed attacks.”
But Göktas is not the only Turkish fighter in the terrorist group. In August, Turkish authorities admitted there are over 1,000 Turkish radicals in the Islamic State. But evidence has connected Turkey to the Islamic State since March 2013. One fighter claimed the Turkish government, a member of NATO, provides funds for the terrorist group.
“Turkey paved the way for us. Had Turkey not shown such understanding for us, the Islamic State would not be in its current place. It [Turkey] showed us affection. Large [numbers] of our mujahedeen received medical treatment in Turkey,” said the man, who was not identified. “We do not have the support of Saudi Arabia, but many Saudi families who believe in jihad do assist us. But anyhow, we will no longer need it, soon. We will build the Islamic state in the territories from Tigris to Jordan and Palestine and to Lebanon. Sunni Law will rule.”
In September, a nurse in Turkey told authorities she had been forced to treat so many Islamic State jihadists for battle wounds that she was “tired” of it. She works at a hospital in Mersin, which is on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and across the ocean from Syria. The hospital normally receives hundreds of Syrians since the civil war began three years ago, but the nurse is alarmed by the rise of wounded Islamic State militants, rather than wounded civilians, at the hospital.
“We treat them, and they go on to decapitate people,” she said. “I am sick of treating wounded ISIL militants. I was extremely distressed about this. I am very sorry about this situation. I am disturbed by the fact that these people are being treated in our hospitals while our people are being held by them.”
Turkey backed the rebels against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and CNN featured the country’s secret jihadi route to Syria. IS captured Azaz, a city in Syria near Turkey’s border, which allowed easier access for the jihadists. The 16-year-old twins, Salma and Zahra Halane from Manchester, allegedly entered Syria through Turkey to join their older brother. IS expanded to Iraq and asked Turkey businesses to return to Iraq. Turkey’s Minister of Economy Nihat Zeybekci said the country will be involved when Iraq is rebuilt.