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Turkish-American Influence Organization Gains New Co-Chair

May 2nd, 2022 10:26

The Turk­ish Amer­i­can Nation­al Steer­ing Com­mit­tee (TASC) has announced the elec­tion of a new co-chair­per­son, pos­si­bly with ultra-nation­al­ist sym­pa­thies. Accord­ing to the TASC post:

April 20, 2022: The TASC Board of Direc­tors is pleased to announce the elec­tion of Mr. Melih Bek­tas as TASC Co-Chair. Bek­tas is a mechan­i­cal engi­neer and com­mer­cial builder. He has been an active leader in the Turk­ish com­mu­ni­ty of the Amer­i­can mid atlantic and north­east regions for twen­ty years. TASC thanks Mr. Israfil Demir for serv­ing as Act­ing Chair. Demir will con­tin­ue as a Board Member.

Read the rest here.

The announce­ment comes after Halil Mut­lu, the pre­vi­ous TASC co-chair, resigned in Feb­ru­ary. As the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) report­ed ear­li­er, Mut­lu is Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Erdoğan’s cousin and had been named US rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Erdoğan’s AKP par­ty. TASC had announced in March that Israfil Demir became the new co-chair, and the TASC web­site con­tin­ues to list him as such.

Melih Bek­tas is a direc­tor of the Turk­ish Amer­i­can Cul­tur­al Soci­ety of Rhode Island and, accord­ing to this resume, owns a home improve­ment com­pa­ny and piz­za restau­rants. A pre­lim­i­nary GIOR inves­ti­ga­tion sug­gests Bek­tas may have Turk­ish ultra­na­tion­al­ist and Islamist sym­pa­thies. His Face­book “Likes” include a page called TÜRK, whose pro­file pic­ture fea­tures a wolf’s head used by Gray Wolves sup­port­ers, and “Türk” writ­ten in old Tur­kic runes. The page has post­ed pho­tos com­mem­o­rat­ing slain sol­diers shown giv­ing the Gray Wolves’ salute. The page also has com­mem­o­rat­ed the death of Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu, who found­ed the Great Uni­ty Par­ty, a right-wing, nation­al­ist, and pan-Islamist polit­i­cal par­ty that is an AKP coali­tion part­ner. The Gray Wolves are a right-wing, pan-Turk­ish, ultra­na­tion­al­ist Turk­ish youth and street move­ment found­ed in the 1960s. The Ger­man Office for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion describes the Gray Wolves as spread­ing nation­al­ist and right-wing extrem­ist thought and as being con­nect­ed to the ultra­na­tion­al­ist Nation­al Action Par­ty, the AKP’s pri­ma­ry coali­tion partner.

His likes also include a page called Necip Fazıl Kısakürek, which cur­rent­ly has a pro­file pic­ture fea­tur­ing the Star of David and the text “Isre­al Ter­ror­ist” (sic). Necip Fazıl Kısakürek was an anti-Semit­ic Turk­ish writer and Islamist ide­o­logue who sup­port­ed the Nation­al Action Par­ty and who died in 1983. Kısakürek was very influ­en­tial on Erdoğan as well as for­mer AKP Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Abdul­lah Gül.

Bek­tas has also re-tweet­ed a tweet deny­ing the Armen­ian Geno­cide, in line with the Turk­ish gov­ern­men­t’s posi­tion.

The Turk­ish Amer­i­can Nation­al Steer­ing Com­mit­tee (TASC) is strong­ly tied to Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Erdoğan:

  • TASC co-chair Gunay Evinch is a prin­ci­pal of Saltz­man & Evinch, a law firm retained by Turkey and reg­is­tered as a for­eign agent of Turkey in 2020.
  • TASC’s for­mer trea­sur­er, Murat Guzel, detailed his US polit­i­cal activ­i­ties in e‑mails to Erdoğan fam­i­ly members.