Waiting for mafia bosses to speak on Turkish operations in Syria

Musa Özuğurlu writes: The operation against Kozağaçlı and the ÇHD blocked the revelation of those who had a direct or indirect role in the looting in Syria. So, in order to find out what we have been doing in Syria, we need to wait for mafia bosses to reveal their former partners via an internal feud.

A column of armored Turkish military vehicles drives on a patrol along a road in Syria's northern Idlib province.

Musa Özuğurlu

"Trucks and oil drilling equipment that belong to our sister country Qatar were liberated by the ‘Northern Storm Brigade.’ They have been brought in by the Northern Storm Brigade, transferred to Turkey and will be delivered to Qatar. They will be returned to Qatar. Allahu Akbar. Al-Selame (Öncüpınar Border Gate between Syria and Turkey) gate. 27.11.2012”  

These are excerpts from a video which was shot with the belief that “The Assad regime is about to be overthrown, the Syrian army is close to disintegrating and we are counting the days until Syria falls apart.”

In the video, the cameras recorded trucks continuously passing through the Bab El Selame border crossing. The person, who was apparently a member of the organization, provided information on the date and the location. He was describing the passing of trucks loaded with equipment onto the Turkish side, accompanied by the call of “Allahu Akbar (God is great).”

What this individual was saying was the exact reflection of the zeitgeist at that time. We can easily see the opportunism of “there is a bad regime in Syria, thus, stealing their goods is a halal deed.” We can also see which countries supported these jihadist organizations at that time when we think of the emphasis on “sister country Qatar.” Thus, we can see which countries are after ‘profiteering’ in Syria.

These images were from the Syrian side of the border crossing, but an important aspect is the processes on the Turkish side. So, instead of sending them back or not accepting them on our side, these goods could pass. How could these goods be allowed to pass when the customs procedures are always required even for a pin?

How did those goods enter Turkey without the CMR (Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road)? What kind of responsibility did the supervisors or officers take who were on duty? How were these goods, which should be processed as ‘smuggled goods’ after this kind of passage, able to travel all the way around the country? All these questions need to be answered by the officials and executives of the time.

Another dimension of this looting is ‘machine butchery.’ Extremely large machines were sawed down and minimized. They were then sold as scrap iron, well below their market value.

A colleague of mine sent me a contract sample. The contract is ‘scrap purchase agreement.’ The buyer is a company registered with the Kilis tax office on the Turkish side. The seller is a company whose address is Syria, Zarchana. The company’s name is Al Hassam Company. Some Syrian names are seen as executives of the company. Among them is a ‘guarantor’ company. The contract is about the “supply of scrap from the Syrian region to the Turkish side for a certain amount and period of time.” This guarantor company is in the southeastern city Gaziantep’s Şehitkamil district, and is run by a Syrian named Sadullah Y. According to hearsay, this person, who is known to everyone in the region and is said to be a member of the FSA (Free Syrian Army), managed the Ceylanpınar ‘transit traffic.’

The question is whether Sadullah Y. had any direct or indirect contacts, ties, or partnerships with the Turkish businessman whose name has been quoted in relation to this trade?

In another dimension of ‘this business’ on the Turkish side, the deeper into the issue we dig, the graver the pillage becomes. Faris Al-Shihabi, Chair of the Association of Syrian Chambers of Industry, said that between 2012 and 2014, not only the Shaykh Najjar industrial zone in Aleppo, but also the Al-Layramoun industrial zone northwest of Aleppo were looted.

Shihabi’s story for the Layramoun region depicts a more serious situation than Shaykh Najjar. While about 700 factories were looted in Shaykh Najjar, 1,100 factories in Layramoun were completely dismantled and transferred to the Turkish side.

Shihabi says they met with about 200 of the businessmen who looted the factories after the liberation of the Layramoun region from jihadist organizations. Some of the 1,100 factory owners have emigrated to Egypt. When the remaining returned after the area was cleared, they encountered debris instead of factories and their machinery, with jihadist slogans written on the walls as well as sim cards of neighboring countries.

“We are not enemies of the Turkish people. We do not blame them. We blame those who played a role in this looting,” al-Shihabi said.

Could this looting have been prevented before Turkey became the subject of international theft complaints?

Let us look at this news story, one that we may have forgotten: A group of lawyers from the Association of Contemporary Lawyers (ÇHD) were detained in January 2013. Right after this, the head of ÇHD, Selçuk Kozağaçlı was detained at the airport on his return from Syria. Kozağaçlı was charged with spying. In his statement before he was detained, he said, “We have learned of these people, with relevant documents and evidence, who have slaughtered, looted and raped the Syrian people. We have also learned the names of those who protected these people and opened the borders to armed assailants. We are now also advocating for the Syrian people.”

Kozağaçlı also implied at the time that they obtained information about who carried out the looting in Syria and that they would start a legal battle against them. He said, “We will investigate crimes against humanity in Syria and file a case against the government.”

The operation against Kozağaçlı and the ÇHD blocked the disclosure of those who had a direct or indirect role in the looting in Syria at the time. This means that in order to find out what we have been doing in Syria, we need to wait for mafia bosses to reveal their former partners during their internal feud.