Sedat Peker worked with and organised rallies for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) – Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) coalition until the beginning of 2021, but fell from favour when former Grey Wolf and mafia boss Alaatin Çakıcı was pardoned and released from prison.
In his eighth revelatory video, Peker alleges that SADAT, founded by Brigadier General Adnan Tanrıverdi, was involved in the transfer of arms to Syria.
BBC Turkish service asked the Turkmens of Bayirbujak about the government’s arms transfers and Peker’s disclosures.
“They went to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), al-Nusra (the Front for the Support of the People of the Levant), the Turkish Party of Islam and the Turkmens of Aleppo. Once they had got through the border, it was clear who was responsible for collecting it. They shared it all out,” The Turkmens of Bayirbujak said.
Towards the end of 2015, the Syrian army under Bashar Asad and Russian warplanes supporting him intensified operations against Turkmen groups in the south of Yayla Mountain in Hatay near the Turkish border. The Turkish Red Crescent organised campaigns for aid, mainly in a number of regions of Turkey.
Various armed Turkmen groups in the Bayirbujak region came together in June 2015 under the name of the 2nd Coastal Division.
In an interview he gave to the Anatolian Agency at that time, the Division Commander Bashar Molla said that they “pursued their struggle with aid from Turkey.” Sedat Peker shared information that they were sending steel vests and vehicles to Bayirbujak.
On 24 November 2015, Turkish jets downed a Russian warplane on the grounds that it had violated Turkish air space. There was a showdown between Turkey and Russia, and relations were re-established in June 2016 when Turkish President Erdoğan sent a letter of apology to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Turkey, Iran and Russia came to a series of agreements in the Asana and Sochi talks. Turkey rubber-stamped its relations with the FSA and its presence in Syrian cities like Jarablus, Al-Bab, Idlib, Afrin, Ras al-Ayn and Tell Abiad became permanent.
In the summer of 2016, apart from a few villages, Bayirbujak fell under the control of the Syrian Army. No-one could prevent jihadist groups from spreading from south of Idlib and the countryside around Damascus to the north.
Who distributed the aid?
Bashar Molla, who received the aid from Turkey and was responsible for its distribution at the time, later left the commandership citing health reasons. The BBC questioned a politican close to him. The politician, who wanted to remain anonymous, stated the following: “At that time, the state was determined to send arms. We are Turkmens: the state is a Turkish state, they wouldn’t leave us exposed. But I don’t know exactly where these arms came from.
“At one point, Sedat Peker was supplyng humanitarian aid: he sent money and material support. We received those. Another time Mitsubishi sent vehicles, those were also distributed among the groups here. We, for example, received five or six vehicles. Some people came from Peker’s team then, and we prepared a thank you speech, we videoed it and sent it to ‘the businessman Peker [who] sent aid.’ Turkey was new to us at that time, we didn’t know who was who. We showed people who wanted to give aid how to do it, we led the way.
“Different things went to the fighters, but I don’t know the details. Those wanting to help the fighters spoke with the Turkish state, then they would meet with the relevant groups on the ground and communicate with them directly. Anyway, the aid was cut when Bayirbujak fell.”
From the front: Ahrar al-Sham, Al-Nusra, Turkistan Party of Islam
A Turkmen fighter with family members at the top of Turkmen armed groups in the region at the time explained that Arab fighters attached to Ahrar al-Sham (the Islamic Movement of the Free People of the Levant), Al-Nusra and the FSA indicated the presence in the region of al-Qaida and the Uygur Turks’ Turkistan Party of Islam, and related the following: “Sedat Peker was sending stoves, camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies and foodstuffs. Apart from this, earlier on, Mitsubishi sent 30 tow vehicles and these were shared among the groups.
“Later, there were very many vehicles and they were used in the mountains. We shared some of them with the Arab FSO in the same region. We said, ‘They’ve been given to us, we’ll pass some to you too,’ and gave them some, but we had been told to.
“Al-Nusra was there too then. They knew the importance of the Turkmens to Turkey, that’s why they were there. They seized some of the vehicles: some of them were sold by the Turkmen commanders who received them. The vehicles came across the border unofficially, were free and also tax-free, and they could sell them not just to Al-Nusra, but to anyone, and get the cash. These sales brought in $3,000-4,000. Every group there benefitted from this as well as from the military equipment.”
The fighter stated that the leaders of the armed groups knew the details of the military equipment. He said that “every group leader took his share” of the aid that came across the border by articulated lorry, that it was carried away in small vehicles, and that some time later, both vehicles and firearms would reach the fighters in Aleppo.
He said: “Aid went to the Free Syrian Army, al-Nusra, the Turkish Party of Islam and the Turkmens of Aleppo. Once they had got through the border, it was clear who was responsible for collecting it. This is how they shared it all out there. We knew Peker’s vehicles when we saw them in Aleppo because of their logos.”
What did Peker say?
Peker said: “After the MIT (National Intelligence Service) lorries were caught, we [sent] to the Bayirbujak Turkmens remote control air vehicles, clothing, lorries full of everything from enough walkie-talkies for all the fighters there to steel vests … We spoke to our MP friends, and they spoke to the necessary people. Then, they said, ‘Let’s send an extra lorry. Other vehicles were going in my name, theirs were different, we believed they were going to the Turkmens on the ground there. There were weapons in those vehicles, we weren’t born yesterday. That is expected. This was organised by SADAT. They went in my name. They were not processed, not recorded, they passed straight through.”
Peker noted that he traded things like petroleum with the groups in Syria, and said: “But let’s come to the next bit, let’s open Pandora’s box. Do you know what you have to do to trade in Syria? There is a man called Metin Kıratlı. His office is the Presidential Head Office of Administrative Affairs. In Külliye. You go to him, but I’m not talking about one or two lorries, I’m talking about big business. Black market raw petroleum, tea, sugar, copper, aluminium, second hand cars, we’re talking about billions of dollars worth, big money…
“Who paid for the Syrian struggle? We, the state. Who died there? The people. Now I’m going to explain to you how trade works there. After you’ve got approval from there, you have your media group, Murat Sancak, Ramazan Öztürk. The whole hierarchy is there. After they have passed approval as well, who do you go to?: Al-Nusra has a man responsible for economy, Abu Abdurrahman. He also uses the name Abu Shayman: this is how you do trade just now. I said at the time, ‘You are giving arms to people who are fighting against our Shiite Turkmens. Our people. Tell them, let’s all know, then we’ve passed the buck’. They said, ‘The balance is shifting.’ Ha! They’re telling me about it?”
Murat Sancak, who was mentioned above, issued a statement on social media: “On the lives of my two daughters, I have not traded so much as a matchstick with Syria.”
In November 2015, then Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said: “I swear those weapons were going to the Turkmens.”
Tuğrul Türkeş, then Deputy General Chair of the MHP responded by saying: “Cross my heart and hope to die, those weapons were not going to the Turkmens. I’m saying this because I know it. We have contacts in that region. We have contacts with the Turkmens of Bayirbujak and Aleppo.”