The Investigative Journal officially launched its uncompromisingly direct and honest talk show from its studios in Times Square New York last week during which award-winning broadcast journalist and anchor Tal Heinrich interviewed former Turkish Police Chief Ahmet S. Yayla who revealed his decision to leave the force after he discovered Turkey was directly funding and supporting Al Qaeda, its affiliates and the Islamic State in Syria over its opposition to Bashar al Assad.
“I had to leave my position because I did not accept what the Erdogan government was asking from me,” Yayla told Heinrich. “In fact, the government kept pressuring me to allow all those jihadis to pass through my city without being stopped or investigated, which I denied. And then, at the end, when he realized I was not going to be working with him to carry out the orders of the Erdogan government through the government in Şanlıurfa, I had to leave my position. I did my best to stop those jihadists but I was not allowed politically.”
The Investigative Journal (TIJ) is headed by CEO Mohamed Fadel Fahmy – an Egyptian-Canadian award-winning journalist and author who has worked extensively in the Middle East – and produced by Driss Sekkat — an international award-winning executive producer and programming launch expert.
TIJ held its official launch in London several weeks ago and its U.S. operation out of New York is the newest addition to the company’s vision and aim of internationalizing the online platform’s dedicated to publishing in-depth investigations that dig to the core of issues that affect the public and its interests.
TIJ’s interview with Yayla for its launch episode sets the tone for the type of hard-hitting journalism that the media publication has started to bring to the world.
Yayla Served as the chief of counterterrorism with the Turkish National Police for 20 years before going into self-imposed exile in Washington, D.C. where he teaches for Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies.
He told TIJ that Turkey began sending arms shipments to jihadists in Syria under the Erdogan government around 2010 and the first group Turkey supported was the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
“After the Arab Spring, the Erdogan government decided to have an extensive role in the conflict and with that, they started to support the jihadists who were fighting against Bashar al-Assad at the time,” referring to the FSA. “But once the Salafi Jihadists started to invade, those strongholds controlled by the Free Syrian Army militias the spectrum changed very fast,” because the FSA were not trained or equipped well and were losing the battle against the Salafi jihadists. “Therefore, they lost their ground very fast. With that, the international community stopped supporting them but Turkey increased its efforts to arm and support those groups. So, the support switched from the Free Syrian Army to the Salafi Jihadists,” included ISSI and Jabhat Al Nusra, or the Al Nusra Front.
Yayla said Erdogan worked directly with Turkish National Intelligence (which is MIT in Turkish) and the director of MIT at the time helped enable Erdogan both in Turkey and internationally. He detailed how the Turkish government intentionally turned a blind eye to jihadists crossing the border from and to Syria.
During the interview, Heinrich also referenced an extensive report by exiled Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt who was able to map out the illegal weaponry sent from Turkey to Syria for use by jihadists and Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda splinter groups including splinter groups in Iraq. Bozkurt noted in his groundbreaking report for TIJ that “On a weekly average, two or three shipments were delivered under the cover of night by trucks with no record of incoming air cargo at the airport logs. The operation often saw Qatari planes landing with arms in their cargo.”
Yayla revealed to Heinrich how the MIT was working with special agents, independently of the force, to distribute weapons to these Syrian rebel fighters. He added the MIT was also working with trucking companies to distribute weapons from Ankara and then dropping them off in Syria.
“Qatar is a direct supporter of Erdogan’s policies in the region,” Yayla said. “Erdogan and the Emir work together, hand in hand” adding that Qatar is responsible for providing the cash flow for those jihadists.
On a single day, ISIS smuggled anywhere between 50 to more than 100 jihadist militants into Turkey. The secret wiretaps that were revealed as part of Bozkurt’s investigation also revealed how in a one-month period in 2014 alone, 1,440 militants crossed into Syria through Turkey. During this same time period, ISIS smuggled 87 militants back into Turkey from Syria. These numbers and figures only represent one crossing point. Yayla said those numbers are actually much higher when taking into account other crossing points.
These same wiretaps proved that In 2014, the head of Turkish Intelligence Hakkan Fidan said he sent 2000 trucks loaded with weapons to jihadists in Syria after they demanded those weapons. “We sent around 2000 trucks. I will send four men to Syria if necessary. I will fire eight missiles toward Turkey to produce a justification for war. We should attack Suleyman Shah’s tomb.”
Asked why he thinks European countries aren’t pressing Erdogan more, Yayla said “Erdogan became the gatekeeper to ISIS and Al Qaeda for the Europeans and he blackmailed the Europeans through the EU with allowing all those terrorists into Europe. And they knew very well that if Erdogan wanted, he would let those terrorists pass through Turkey’s borders and go to Europe for different kinds of terrorist organizations.
Yayla attributed Erdogan’s support for these Islamists as being in line with his desire to become the leader of the Sunni Islamic world. “And he saw the conflict in Syria as an opportunity to grab that power,” Yayla said, attributing to what some refer to as “neo-Ottomanism.” He added that the second reason for Erdogan’s support of jihadists groups in Syria is because “he saw this as an opportunity to support the Muslim Brotherhood [Ikhwan] internationally, for his international political objectives” since his Salafi view of Islam is in line with the Brotherhood’s. “And if you look at where the Muslim Brotherhood’s centers are established today, they’re all in Turkey and Istanbul.”
He said Erdogan knew that supporting these groups and their ideologies in Syria would mean that he would eventually have control over Syria.
Yayla also referred to a report that was written for the European Union which studied the weapons and explosives of the Islamic State. “In that report we can exclusively see that almost all the IED materials, used by ISIS, were either provided by Turkey or they were purchased from Turkish companies. Even if those materials were not produced in Turkey, Turkish companies purchased them from international companies, brought them to Turkey and then sold them to ISIS. Think about it: ISIS killed thousands of people with its explosives.”
Canadian Police Report Almost 2,200 Home Visits To Monitor Quarantine Compliance
Canadian police officers reportedly have conducted almost 2,200 home visits to ensure travelers into the country are complying with quarantine rules.
In late March, the Canadian government announced the start of the Quarantine Act, which mandates that anyone entering the country, with the exception of essential workers like truck drivers and those in healthcare, must self-isolate for 14 days.
Failure to comply can incur a fine of up to $750,000 and/or six months in prison. However, so far there have been no arrests, and only one fine of $1,000.
Still, many may find unsettling the degree to which the Canadian police, in coordination with official border and health services, are enforcing a nanny state by paying home visits to incoming travelers deemed at risk of non-compliance. In addition, prime minister Justin Trudeau has hinted that even tougher measures could be coming, even once Canada begins easing cross-border travel.
Also in late March, the Trudeau government announced a halt to all immigration in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, current immigration applications would not be closed or denied due to failure to meet typical requirements.
Still, many pointed out that Canada’s response was actually stronger than the US’, which has continued to import thousands of H-1B workers even while under lockdown due to a global pandemic.
The border between the US and Canada has been closed since the end of March, and this was recently extended, likely into mid-June. Trudeau has stated that the closure and its extension were implemented with full cooperation from the US.
While travel into Canada has not stopped completely, it has fallen drastically since the implementation of restrictive policies. However, critics of the government question whether Trudeau reacted quickly enough, and argue that the policy going forward is too vague and requires more explanation and accountability.
As stated by Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus:
“It was the Trudeau government’s failure to close our borders that allowed the virus to spread in the first place. It is incumbent on the Trudeau government to explain how they plan to ensure that travelers who are coming back to Canada are not spreading COVID-19… Unfortunately, right now the Trudeau government is telling Canadians to ‘wait and see’ without explaining what metrics they are relying on to make decisions.”
While Canada is doing significantly better than the US in terms of the number of cases, one tragically sobering area in which it has exhibited clear failure is the fate of its elderly, particularly those in state and private long-term care institutions.
It is estimated that up to 86% of the Canadian death toll is from facilities such as long-term care, retirement, and corrections, with the first two making up the large majority. In one privately-run nursing home, as much as one third of residents have died from coronavirus.
While the situation is complex and there are few countries that do not seem to have significant problems with their approach, it is clear that something is wrong with Canada’s. Perhaps the government should focus more on taking care of its elderly than intrusively monitoring its citizens.
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