A report by Turkey's Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) shows that millions of dollars in Chinese-produced weapons and defense equipment was sold to the Islamic State (ISIS) by three construction companies based in the port city of Mardin.
The investigation reveals that Turkey was the largest source of ISIS’s weapons, the majority of were purchased online from China, according to reporting by daily Birgün.
The port of Mersin was central, the MASAK report reveals, in ISIS’ supply and development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones.
The report centers around one man, Hag Geneid, born in Aleppo, Syria, in 1982, and known to be linked to ISIS. Geneid established a company called Altun İnci Construction Materials Industry and Trade Limited Company in 2014, along with his business partners, Ghassan Nawai and Mustafa Naway. Both men were Syrian but had Turkish citizenship.
In 2016, another company called Mavi Yelken Hardware was established at the same address, and Elferah Construction was also established at the address owned by Geneid and his partners in 2017. This is at the height of ISIS’ expansion and advancement of weapons capabilities.
Hag Geneid himself was granted Turkish citizenship in 2017. The Mersin Chief Public Prosecutor’s office launched an investigation against him in 2019 but decided on non-prosecution in 2019.
It is now clear, however, that the companies founded by Geneid were critical in allowing ISIS to develop its defense capabilities and thereby rapidly expand its territory.
Between 2015 and 2016, as ISIS was gaining power, Altun İnci Construction supplied millions of dollars in UAVs and weaponry to the Islamic State. This was primarily done through a group owned by Mustafa Naway, Naway group. Naway group was founded as an import agency in Aleppo, but opened an office in China in 2011 and operated as a purchase platform bringing Chinese goods into the country. The company established a Mersin office in 2014 to bring goods into Turkey via the city’s port, which borders Syria.
According to reporting by Birgün, it is impossible to order goods online - it must be done over the phone. However, it appears that the platform is still operating and maintains an office in China.
Weapons and UAVs would come from China to Mersin via orders from Geneid’s companies and then would be transferred to Syria through one of ISIS’ weapons experts, Sajid Farooq Babar. Babar was considered by the United States to be the mastermind behind the Islamic State’s development of UAV capabilities and was killed via American airstrike in 2017.
The Turkish Intelligence Agency (MİT) was monitoring Babar closely before his death, according to the report.
These weapons sent from China to Mersin were then used to launch massacres and attacks on civilian settlements.
Two other parties critical in facilitating these weapons sales from China to ISIS were Abu Naeema al-Turkistani and his wife Minawaer Matıtuersun, both Chinese citizens of Uyghur origin. Al-Turkistani allegedly facilitated the sale of over $85,000 in weaponry and was part of the ISIS group responsible for making chemical weapons, according to the report. Al-Turkistani was part of the Turkistan Islamic Party, an extremist Uyghur party the Turkish government supports. Al-Turkistani was also killed by an airstrike in 2017.
To date, none of those involved in the weapons trade who are still alive have been prosecuted. Further, the companies continue to operate in Turkey without sanctions - Hag Geneid transferred his shares in Altun İnci to two Turkish people in November 2021, and the two new partners still work alongside Mustafa Naway. Geneid is still the general manager of the two other companies he founded.
Elferah Construction is now owned by Cafer İbrahim, a Syrian who now has Turkish citizenship. İbrahim, who now owns the company which ensured the transfer of weapons to ISIS, resides in the Başakşehir neighborhood of Istanbul.