Turkish media is reporting on an influence campaign run by a US organization tied to Turkish president Erdoğan to advance the Turkish government’s position on the 2016 Turkish coup:
July 14, 2020 New York Digital LED vans and airplanes with banners are touring the US to give Americans a window into the defeated putsch staged by Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), ahead of the fourth anniversary of the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey. Several vans with screens displaying “July 15, Victory of Turkish Democracy” and “Victory of Turkish Nation” toured Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens in New York, Washington, DC and also Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, where FETO leader Fetullah Gulen resides. Planes flew banners that read “Stop Terrorist FETO” above New York City and New Jersey. The campaign was organized by the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC), whose co-chair, Halil Mutlu, told Anadolu Agency the effort was to inform Americans about the coup attempt.
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This campaign is run by the Turkish American National Steering Committee’s (TASC). a group strongly connected to President Erdoğan:
- TASC co-chair Halil Mutlu is President Erdoğan’s cousin and is the former chairman of the Turken Foundation, where Erdoğan’s daughter Esra Albayrak is on the board of directors.
- Gunay Evinch, the other TASC co-chair, is a principal of Saltzman & Evinch, the law firm retained by Turkey and engaged in the legal defense of Erdoğan’s bodyguards who were accused of assaulting protestors during Erdoğan’s May 2017 visit to Washington DC.
- TASC board member and former treasurer Murat Guzel detailed his engagement in US political activities in e‑mails to Erdoğan family members.
- TASC also has hosted events in the US where President Erdoğan has spoken.
TASC’s campaign also advances the Turkish government’s position on the coup attempt. Although Turkey blames Fethullah Gülen for the coup, Gülen rejects this accusation and the US has so far refused to extradite Gülen citing insufficient evidence. Gülen was previously one of Erdoğan’s political allies, and has millions of followers in his movement which “prides itself on being a pacifist, internationalist, modern, and moderate alternative to more extreme derivations of Sunni Islam.” The movement runs schools worldwide, including many in the US.
TASC additionally has a number of in the US, part of the Global Muslim Brotherhood a transnational Islamist influence network also covered by the GIOR:
- In September 2019, TASC hosted an event where president Erdoğan spoke alongside and met with a number of USMB leaders including Oussama Jamal (US Council of Muslim Organizations).
- TASC also participated in the 15th Annual MAS-ICNA Convention (Muslim American Society, Islamic Circle of North America) in 2016 along with Erdoğan’s other daughter Sümeyye Erdoğan Bayraktar, Turkish public broadcaster TRT, the Turkish Islamist businessman’s group MÜSIAD, as well as other Turkish organizations and agencies.
- TASC also co-sponsored a rally against President Donald Trump’s 2017 declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel along with the Council on American Islamic Relations, ICNA, MAS, and the USCMO, among others.
- The TASC September 2019 newsletter additionally tells of a meeting with ICNA leaders and states that its “members continue to be our strongest supporters and volunteers for our programs.”
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