[Opinion] Erdoğan’s battles with explicit tapes

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Türkmen Terzi 

The Turkish nation has arguably never enjoyed a fully functional democracy. Following the establishment of Ataturk’s secular republic after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1923, the conservative majority of Turks were excluded from public life while religious and ethnic minorities were repressed. The republic’s century-old state institutions have, however, remained effectively functional, especially the judiciary, until very recently. Turkish mafia boss Sedat Peker’s recent revelations have further magnified the decay within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has failed the Turkish state.

Peker became a social media phenomenon with explosive revelations related to the criminal activities and corruption of high-level AKP members. According to claims made by Peker, key members from among the AKP have been involved in rape, murder and drug trafficking. In June Peker tweeted that Presidential Economic Policy Committee member and AKP Deputy Chairman for Local Administrations Korkmaz Karaca has been involved in trafficking young women for politicians including for Deniz Baykal, the former chairman of the main opposition party. Peker has also exposed another key figure: the AKP’s Beşiktaş district deputy chairman of the woman’s branch, Aliye Uzun who was reportedly involved in procuring young girls for the AKP’s ruling elite. Uzun has appeared publicly with top Turkish politicians including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family, as well as opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, among others.

The Turkish public was first introduced to Uzun when she facilitated a meeting between Iranian drug lord Naji Sharifi Zindashti and former AKP lawmaker Professor Burhan Kuzu, who died on November 1 of last year reportedly due to COVID-19-related complications; however, it has been reported by several news websites that Kuzu was executed by Zindashti for failing to assist him in acquiring Turkish citizenship and for other reasons. Turkish journalist Said Seda tweeted on August 8 that Kuzu was seen dining and enjoying himself just a few hours before his death. According to Seda he died suddenly, his nose was covered in blood, and Uzun was with him at the time of his death.”

Zindashti was arrested in Turkey in April 2018 on charges related to drug trafficking and murder and spent six months in jail. He revealed that Uzun had procured young girls for him. “I called Aliye and we agreed on a sum of 500 euros per girl, agreeing on six or seven girls. Aliye came to my apartment with the girls. The guests chose the girls Aliye brought and went to their rooms. I slept with Aliye,” he said. Zindashti claimed that Uzun had demanded 500,000 Turkish lira in exchange for assisting him in acquiring Turkish citizenship. With a good network and as a member of the AKP women’s branch Uzun could presumably easily arrange it. The Turkish public has been left questioning whether Uzun procured young women for other AKP officials as she was often seen in their company and whether Erdoğan or other AKP figures utilized her for sex trafficking with an intent to blackmail political rivals.

Peker also accused Durak Uygun, the father of Ümitcan Uygun, the prime suspect in the death of his girlfriend Sema Esen, publicly known as Aleyna Çakır, who was found dead in his home last year, of receiving help from Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu to get his son released from prison. Ümitcan Uygun was detained in Ankara on August 5 as part of an investigation into the death of his new girlfriend, Esra Hankulu, who was found dead in Mamak.

Peker mentioned that Durak Uygun and Soylu are known to be close friends and that the forensics report on Çakır’s death was altered to prevent Ümitcan Uygun’s arrest. Turkish journalist Cevheri Güven has also accused Durak Uygun of luring poor university students with the promise of money in exchange for sex with politicians and powerful figures.

Turkey’s current President Erdoğan is the best example of how a “tape” can provoke the rise and fall of those in power. Erdoğan has developed the skill of blackmailing his rivals with incriminating tapes during election campaigns, playing on the Turkish nation’s religious and moral sensitivities.

Peker claims that Karaca filmed a sex tape of Baykal, who led the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) from 1992 to 2010. Baykal was forced to resign after a tape allegedly showing Baykal having sex with a CHP lawmaker was leaked onto the Internet in May 2010. Erdoğan allegedly sought to widely distribute the sex tape, while also ordering preparations for new recordings, the Hürriyet Daily News reported. “This is not private life. I would have been the first to fight it had it been in the privacy of his own bedroom, but this was not even his house. Don’t make me get into the details. Did you enter the room or not?”  Erdoğan said in leveraging the tape to his political advantage. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told a TV station on March 27, 2014 that he has viewed footage in which Erdoğan was seen watching the video of Baykal and later commenting on it before it was uploaded onto YouTube.

Ten key members from Turkey’s second-largest opposition party, the MHP, were forced to resign following a leak of sex tapes just two weeks before the general election in June 2011. Erdoğan denied any involvement in the MHP’s sex-tape scandal; however, it was Erdoğan who eventually benefitted the most from it.

Journalist Barış Terkoğlu commented in an article published in the Cumhuriyet daily January 2021 that Erdoğan won the Istanbul municipal election in 1994 by releasing a “cassette” of his leftist rival, writer and singer Zülfü Livaneli. Terkoğlu wrote that Fırat Develioğlu, a follower of Adnan Oktar, broadcast the cassette at the request of Erdoğan during that time. Sixty-four-year-old Oktar, a Turkish sex cult leader, together with dozens of his followers were arrested during nationwide raids in 2018 on charges relating to sex crimes, child abuse, kidnapping, blackmail, fraud and money laundering. Turkish media reported that during the raid police found thousands of damning tapes in Oktar’s house in the Ümraniye district of Istanbul.

Erdoğan and his party members have benefited from these sex tapes for years. However, the tables have now turned, with members of the opposition and Peker threatening the AKP with incriminating tapes. Neo-nationalist Patriotic Party (VP) leader Doğu Perinçek claims to have in his possession more than 30 tapes exposing Erdoğan’s corruption. Several social media accounts have accused Erdoğan of having had many extramarital affairs with a number of women including TV anchor and former Miss Turkey Defne Samyeli. Only time will tell whether the kind of tapes that enabled Erdoğan to rise will now be the reason for his downfall.

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