(photo credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/HARUN YAHYA INTERNATIONAL)
Turkish media has been awash with salacious details about the arrest of a controversial “cult” leader over the previous week. In the latest twist, reports have sought to link arrested televangelist Adnan Oktar and his group to Israel.
As the case moves forward in the court, the allegations and media spotlight will likely grow and Israel may increasingly become a scapegoat.
Last Wednesday, police detained Oktar
– also known as Harun Yahya – and accused his organization of crimes including “forming a criminal gang, fraud, blackmail, sexual abuse and political and military espionage,” according to Turkish Radio and Television Corporation. 171 suspects were rounded up and police confiscated truckloads of evidence, including 70 weapons, 3,000 bullets and cash.
Press accounts related how the organization ran a TV show on channel A9 in which they “discussed Islamic values and sometimes danced with young women,” according to Hurriyet.
By Sunday the number of criminal complaints rose to 45 in six countries, including 17 children who alleged sexual abuse at the hands of what many describe as a “cult.”
Statements in the case began to be given on Tuesday. Eightysix companies linked to the organization were identified.
Claims of connections between the group and Israel have begun to circulate in Turkish media. The most serious are reports that Oktar is accused of “transferring state secrets to Israel,” as the website Ahval first asserted on July 12.
NTV.com reported that he was questioned on Tuesday about connections to “Israeli lawmakers known for their insults to Turkey.”
“Outrageous slander against Sultan Abdulhamid from Oktar, an Israeli agent,” read the headline at Takvim.com on Tuesday. In a photo montage with the article Oktar is shown with a rabbi and is accused of insulting a former Ottoman sultan for selling land to Jews in Ottoman Palestine.
Sultan Abdulhamid once owned tens of thousands of hectares in what is now Israel, including in the Jordan and Beit Shean valleys. Sabah.com also ran a headline claiming that Oktar was an “agent” and asserting that he “poses with Zionist politicians and clerics who are guests on TV channels and receive accolades.” It also showed photos of Israeli rabbis posing with the “cult” leader.
Turkish media have also sought to assert connections between what they call a “FETO terrorist organization” and the cult. “This masquerade was the understanding of the traitors, their connections with each other and their contacts with the Zionists and Crusaders,” writes a columnist at Yeniakit.com. FETO is the name given to the organization run by Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who was accused by Ankara of being behind the 2016 coup and other crimes.
Turkey has sought extradition of Gulen from the US and sought out his supporters globally, detaining six in Kosovo in March. A second article at Yeniakit claims that Oktar’s support of religious dialogue with Jews and Christian was similar to Gulen’s.
Much of the coverage has no details, but speaks of “dark ties with Israel and the US, and focal points of power.” As these conspiracy theories spread, claims of networks of “Zionists and masons” appear online.
“The Adnan Oktar organization, where Israeli and FETO connections have emerged, has also been deciphered in financial structuring,” Yenisafak reported on Saturday. At a rally after the arrests a doll in the shape of Oktar with the word “Siyonist” or Zionist was placed in front of protesters.
Haberturk.com also highlights that A9 hosted many Israeli guests over the years.
“The relationship with Yehuda Glick is under investigation within the scope of the operation,” the website claimed on July 12. “Oktar allegedly leaked information to Israelis. Spying accusations against him are also based on this claim.” The allegations of spying may lead to more rumors and conspiracy theories.
The social media attacks on “Zionists” or conspiracies are not new, but the attempt by some media outlets to try to link the current cult case to both FETO and Israel two years after the coup attempt has potential to further damage relations between Israel and Turkey.
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