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.
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.