by Dalia Ziada
He hosts HAMAS leaders regularly and they call him “the elder brother.”
Turkey’s president Erdogan is in real trouble, after the United States’ Department of State officially designated Harakat Sawa’d Misr (HASM) and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) as terrorist organizations, last week. That is not only because HASM and PIJ are affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood group, of which Erdogan is a leading member; but, also, because Turkey hosts the Egyptian leaders of HASM, who were also designated by U.S. State Department as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT).
In mid-January, the U.S. State Department announced the designation of the Egypt-based militia, HASM, which is affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, on the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). Previously, in 2018, the U.S. State Department designated HASM and Liwa’ al-Thawra, which is also a militia affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, as SDGT. HASM and Liwaa Al-Thawra are armed groups affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood and have been operating in Egypt, since the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood regime, in 2013. Their goal was to cause a state of extreme chaos that forces the military to return the Muslim Brotherhood regime back in power.
HASM was formed by young members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who fled to Turkey later on, in early 2015. From their safe residences in Turkey, the leaders of HASM continued to command operations implemented by the young members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who could not flee Egypt, at that time. HASM operations mainly targeted state officials and policemen and their innocent families.
The most prominent operation executed by HASM was the assassination of Egypt’s Attorney General, Hisham Barakat, in June 2015. According to recorded confessions of the perpetrators, the assassination was planned, instructed, and funded by HASM leaders, who are based in Turkey. The perpetrators, in Cairo, used to discretely communicate with the leaders, in Turkey, via encrypted online applications.
In the same statement, the U.S. State Department mentioned that they reviewed the FTO designation of the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and decided to maintain it. Although PIJ, operating in Gaza, is known as an Iran-backed terrorist militia, it is originally a faction of HAMAS and is, allegedly, supported, financially and politically by Qatar and Turkey.
HAMAS, which Erdogan shamelessly supports, is also one of the military wings of the Muslim Brotherhood. HAMAS has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, Britain, and some other countries, since 1990s. Turkish president Erdogan is friendly with both HAMAS and PIJ leaders. He hosts HAMAS leaders regularly and they call him “the elder brother.”
In August 2020, Erdogan hosted two HAMAS leaders, in Istanbul, despite knowing that HAMAS is a designated terrorist organization and that the two leaders he met are designated by the U.S. as SDGT. The U.S. State Department issued a press statement, at the time, condemning Erdogan’s “continued outreach” to terrorist organizations and warned that such meetings “only serve to isolate Turkey from the international community.”
After the recent designation of HASM and its founders, who live in Turkey, the Turkish president Erdogan is knowingly and purposefully harboring officially designated terrorists in his country. That may not only hurt him personally or his Islamist AKP party, but it may also incur serious sanctions on the people of Turkey, who are already struggling with a failing economy and the recently-imposed U.S. sanctions on their national defense industry.
Despite that, Turkey still declines Egypt’s requests to extradite the members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Turkey hosts, since 2013, including the leaders of the terrorist militia, HASM. Erdogan has, always, insisted on keeping the members of the Muslim Brotherhood in his country, including those involved in committing violent crimes against civilians and state institutions in Egypt. By doing so, he created a political rift with important Middle East countries, like Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. By continuing to do so, he is risking Turkey’s relationship with the European Union, NATO, and the United States, especially, in light of the cold shoulder diplomacy, which Joe Biden is already showing to him.
Is it worth severing Turkey’s ties with neighbors in the Middle East and Europe, risking Turkey’s relations with international allies, threatening the well-being of a country as big as Turkey, and causing 85 million innocent people to suffer diplomatic isolation and economic sanctions; only to provide a hotbed for Muslim Brotherhood members, including those who practiced and incited violence? This is the question that President Erdogan, and his loyal advisors, need to, urgently, consider, before it is too late.
Article first published on Liberal Democracy Institute.
Dalia Ziada is Director of Liberal Democracy Institute. She writes on Militancy and Islamism, and about MENA affairs. She tweets under @DaliaZiada.