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German Domestic Intelligence Highlights Turkish Influence Operations

September 16th, 2021 16:11

Germany’s domes­tic intel­li­gence agency has report­ed on attempts by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment to influ­ence pub­lic opin­ion in Ger­many and iden­ti­fied Turk­ish influ­ence orga­ni­za­tions in the coun­try. Accord­ing to the agency’s new­ly released 2020 annu­al “Con­sti­tu­tion­al Pro­tec­tion” report:

In addi­tion, the MİT [Turkey’s state intel­li­gence agency, ed.] tried to influ­ence pub­lic opin­ion in Ger­many. The Turk­ish dias­po­ra orga­ni­za­tion Union of Inter­na­tion­al Democ­rats (UID) was an impor­tant front orga­ni­za­tion for exert­ing influ­ence on a polit­i­cal and social lev­el in the inter­ests of the Turk­ish rul­ing par­ty AKP. It rep­re­sents the inter­ests of the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment in Ger­many and Europe and is the unof­fi­cial for­eign orga­ni­za­tion of the AKP.

The DİTİB is, as it is also evi­dent from its statutes, part of the Direc­torate of Reli­gious Affairs (Diyanet İşl­eri Başkan­liği) of Turkey in Ankara. In this con­text, the AKP exer­cis­es influ­ence through the DİTİB, its affil­i­at­ed asso­ci­a­tions and its edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions in Ger­many. In DİTİB mosque com­mu­ni­ties not only reli­gious con­tent is con­veyed, but one-sided polit­i­cal agi­ta­tion in the inter­ests of the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment. Fur­ther­more, it can be assumed that the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment will con­tin­ue to use the struc­tures of the DİTİB covert­ly in order to spy out alleged regime-crit­i­cal insti­tu­tions and indi­vid­u­als in Ger­many. [Trans­lat­ed with Google Trans­late with minor edits]

Read the full report here.

The intel­li­gence report notes that through UID and DITIB, Turkey seeks to spread the nar­ra­tive that the major­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion and author­i­ties in Europe are hos­tile to Islam, that Ger­man author­i­ties are adopt­ing dou­ble stan­dards towards Mus­lims, and that West­ern media is over­play­ing Islamist-moti­vat­ed ter­ror­ist acts while down­play­ing vio­lence against Muslims.

Turkey is known to employ sev­er­al forms of influ­ence oper­a­tions, using orga­ni­za­tions pro­vid­ing ser­vices to the Turk­ish dias­po­ra, Islamist groups, polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions, edu­ca­tion, and sup­port­ing orga­ni­za­tions that effec­tive­ly lob­by for the Turk­ish government.

The Union of Inter­na­tion­al Democ­rats (UID; for­mer­ly known as the Union of Euro­pean Turk­ish Democ­rats) describes itself as a vol­un­tary NGO  found­ed in 2014 that oper­ates in sev­er­al Euro­pean coun­tries. Its aims include increas­ing the eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, and social activ­i­ties of Turks and “sis­ter com­mu­ni­ties” abroad with­out alien­at­ing their iden­ti­ties and val­ues as well as com­bat­ting Islam­o­pho­bia. Ger­man media has described it as a lob­by­ing group for Pres­i­dent Erdoğan and his AKP that empha­sizes Turk­ish val­ues and cus­toms. The Ger­man Office for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion mon­i­tors the UID, describ­ing it as “nation­al­ist” and incom­pat­i­ble with Germany’s free demo­c­ra­t­ic order.

The Direc­torate of Reli­gious Affairs (Turk­ish: Diyanet İşl­eri Başkan­lığı or Diyanet) is a Turk­ish state insti­tu­tion respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing reli­gious affairs. The Diyanet was found­ed in 1924 to monop­o­lize con­trol of Sun­ni Islam in Turkey under the state. The Diyanet drafts a week­ly ser­mon deliv­ered at all of Turkey’s mosques, and their imams are civ­il ser­vants employed by the state. Start­ing in the 1980s, the Diyanet began to man­age mosques abroad and send imams there to pro­mote Turk­ish Islam. After the Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP) came to pow­er in 2002, it has quadru­pled the Diyanet’s bud­get and installed lead­ers who sup­port­ed its posi­tions, where­as it pre­vi­ous­ly had been sec­u­lar and inde­pen­dent of state inter­fer­ence. Through orga­ni­za­tions such as DITIB, the Diyanet pro­vides imams and pays imams for Turk­ish mosques abroad, and Diyanet imams have spied on Turkey’s oppo­nents abroad and report­ed back to the government.