Sedat Peker’s Turkish whistleblowing adds a strain to interregional politics

Sedat Peker takes to the screens and creates an uproar in Turkish society. The ripple effect has an international scale potential. 

Sedat Peker’s exposure video adds a new layer to the Syrian conflict 

By Rachel Brooks

May 31, 2021 

News and analysis 

Opinions reflected in this commentary piece are attributed solely to the author.

Sedat Peker is a notorious Turkish mobster living in exile. Arab News reported on May 31 that Peker had released a new video that adds a layer to the Syrian conflict’s politics, and holds the potential for rippling interregional political pressures. Peker accuses Turkish leaders of conspiring with paramilitary forces to “send weapons to Al-Qaeda linked terror groups” within Syria in his latest of a series of videos that blasts the cabinent of Turkish President Erdogan for a series of scandals. 

Indian Express noted that millions of Turks had tuned in to watch the video which launched from social media. Peker began to post videos this month making “uncorroborated claims” of fraud, murder, and drug running against Turkey’s top politicians. The Turkish people have questioned the “veracity” of the notorious mobster’s claims, but have nevertheless called for a probe into the corruption claims, citing the need for open investigations to preserve the hope of Turkey as a democracy. 

Peker has released eight exposure videos posted via YouTube. 

In the latest video, Peker has cited cooperation between the Turkish government and Al-Nusra through a paramilitary group called SADAT. Peker claims that the military equipment was sent with aid trucks to Syrian Turkmen and that a photo op with the aid trucks was organized to ensure the ruse appeared convincing. 

Sedat Peker’s videos have generated headlines across the world. NPR News Weekend Edition Saturday tuned in to discuss the allegations Peker made, taking on Erdogan and his cabinet directly. 

NPR News cited the political analyst Soli Ozel, who states that the feud in Turkish politics generated by the commotion stirred up with Peker’s videos is liable to damage Erdogan.

“Coming on top of mismanagement of the COVID crisis and the very severe economic conditions, particularly for the poor in the country, the public, especially the poorer segments of the public, maybe more receptive to these allegations,” said Ozel, as quoted by NPR News. 

An English-language caption of Peker’s statements was posted by Abdullah Bozkurt, the director of Nordic Research and Monitoring Network. The transcript of the video was provided by Sol TV. 

“Turkish mobster Sedat Peker, former ally to President #Erdogan, revealed he shipped arms, military supplies, drones, vehicles to the al-Nusra front in #Syria at the request of #Sadat, Turkish contractor run by Erdogan’s former chief military advisor Adnan Tanriverd,” tweeted Bozkurt. 

The shake-up within Turkish society was caused by the Peker video scandal as Turkey “diverted” aid for Syria’s Turkmen to Nusra extremism. The aid was intended for the Turkmen minority in Syria but was diverted to “extremist groups linked to al-Qaeda and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.” The Jerusalem Post published an analysis by Seth J. Frantzman describing how Erdogan’s party rose to secure power through a “Stalin-like” purge of opposition in Turkish society. Peker has been described as a Turkish ultra-nationalist who was once close to the AK Ruling Party of Erdogan. His fall out with the “regime” was described as “complex.” The AK Party’s push toward “absolute power” has created many alienations of former allies, wrote Frantzman. 

The rise to power reportedly came first from the AK’s targeting of secular and left-wing protesters, as was exhibited by the “crushing” of Gezi Park protesters. The AK “set its sights” on “destroying” the Kurdish HDP opposition, and in 2015, used two elections to “provoke the end of the ceasefire with the militant PKK,” wrote Frantzman. 

Peker went into in-depth descriptions of his time as a mob lord for the Turkish government, describing orders he’d dictated to his brother to execute the assassination of Turkish Cypriot journalist Kutlu Adal. He likewise discussed a series of companies and sub-companies, posted in Qatar and Azerbaijan, that were part of the crime syndicate, and mentioned a shipment of goods “going to Israel” and mentioned the transfer of Qatari funds to support Hamas. Peker claims that actors connected to the Turkish government are engaged in illegal activities across a network of nations and regions including Turkey, Syria, Azerbaijan, Russia, Colombia, and Venezuela.

As all of these nations are likewise politically volatile, the ramifications of Peker’s exposure holds the promise of rippling scandals in geopolitics. Western response to the Azerbaijani stakes in the nation’s territorial feud with Armenia, for example, could potentially increase their pressures as political scandals of a Turkish-backed crime syndicate emerge. Regional governments have taken advantage of war-time propaganda efforts and employed them in disinformation tactics surrounding the Karabakh conflict. A political scandal of the Peker video exposure campaign magnitude have potential to add to this information warfare, whether or not Peker’s statements hold veracity. 

A shaking up of Turkish politics comes as Erdogan has advanced his stance on Islamic-oriented politics in the region. Erdogan has voiced vocal support of the Hamas terror group, and heated condemnation of Israel for its defense response to the 11-Day Hamas incursion in Israel. Revelations of Turkish interventionism in conflicts of the Gulf have a potential for international political repercussions. The Washington Post reported that Turkey is “riveted” by the claims made by Peker and that Erdogan’s hold on power is shifting. The cause and effect of this power shift may have a reflection on Turkish political approach to the Gulf and to Israel, should Erdogan’s leadership be challenged.

Erdogan himself has been inconsistent in his approach of Israel, stating in 2020 that he may wish for better Turkish relations with Israel, see The Times of Israel but later walking back his statements with his condemnation of the Israel-Hamas conflict. Erdogan’s approach to Israel and to the Gulf has added a strain to its relationship with the United States, which condemned the “antisemitism” of the Turkish president’s remarks, wrote Al-Monitor. Further tensions between the U.S. and Turkey could likewise politically emerge as inquiry into the alleged scandals of human rights diversion in Syria add to a list of political issues adding strains to the two NATO-nations relationship. 

Sedat Peker’s exposure videos repeatedly attack the Turkish Interior Ministry as part of Peker’s apparent personal feud with Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, as well as his feud with the Turkish police for ill-treatment of his family. In response to Peker’s claims, Soylu fired back, accusing Peker of “links to the notorious 2007 murder in Istanbul of Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos”, wrote Aval News. 

Accusations between Peker and Soylu have the potential to add to the interregional and international response to the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, as scandals such as the alleged links to the murder of a Turksih-Armenian newspaper’s editor, could add to the ethnically-driven politics fueling the media tensions of the Karabakh conflict.

Meanwhile, Forbes referred to Peker’s video exposure of the Turkish government as a “Mexican standoff” at the “heart of the Turkish establishment.” As Peker continues to speak, Erdogan has reportedly sought greater action on securing his arrest, wrote The GuardianErdogan’s response to the scandal itself has potential to add to its controversy, as the political status of Peker’s claims box in an increasingly complex geopolitical inflection point status.