In the working class district of Bagcilar, Istanbul, there is a shop called Islami Giyim, or Islamic Clothing. At first glance it might seem like any other store not worth paying any attention to. The reality is quite different. This is the only known ISIS (or ISIL) merchandising store in Istanbul. T-shirts, hats, and flags are displayed next to books and plates. Twitter users have posted pictures calling for some sort of measures to be taken against the store. So far no actions have been reported. The shop have been selling clothes for months and Turkish media call it an example of the growing influence of the terrorist group in the country. Is Turkey fighting ISIS?
The question might seem rhetorical for some, but it is not. Turkey is a NATO member and US key ally in the region, but Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking his time to condemn ISIS. “No one should expect me to provoke ISIS,” said the former Prime Minister, and now President replying to critics in a recent hostage crises, involving 80 Turkish citizens. In the meantime al-Halixh, a newspaper published in the UAE, wrote that ISIS is oriented by the Turkish National Intelligence Service (MIT). The Hezbollah Chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has accused Turkey of funding the group. For Ciwan Ibrahim, the head of the Kurdish security police in northeast Syria, Ankara supports radical groups since the government “is afraid of Rojava because of the new self-rule system here.” Everyone has different reasons to accuse Turkey. Ten percent of ISIS militants are Turks.
“I think the number is much higher. Last week I saw them [ISIS militants] marching on the streets with their flags and recruiting people from the sidewalks,” said an activist who asked not be named for security reasons. He is a Kurd living in Kadikoi, the district in the Anatolian side of Istanbul. He claimed ISIS became Erdogan’s private army and in the past year was able to grow in terms of support and funding.
“Militants already go around neighborhoods to promote their ideas. I am sure very soon they will attack people who do no conform to them. They already started criticizing women who do not wear a nijab. Turkey is a secular country. So I wonder what it will happen when tension explodes,” he continued in a worried tone. The activist is convinced there will be soon violence towards minorities and secular people. There has been already sectarian attacks in the country, including one aimed to a Shi’ite mosque. So far no one from the government or the AKP party has condemned these actions.