DISCLAIMER: For security reasons, Vocal Europe decides to publish this article by applying a cryptonym for name of the author who is a purged Turkish Military Officer running the twitter account @purgedNATO.
Copying a page from the playbook of Khomeini and Qaddafi, many claim that Erdogan has been building his own revolutionary guard under the disguise of a defence consultant firm SADAT (http://www.sadat.com.tr/). Formally established in February 2012 in the midst of Arab revolution, SADAT was established by Adnan Tanrıverdi, a retired one‐star Army general, who was forced to retire from Turkish Army in 1996 allegedly for having an anti‐secular, radical Islamic mindset and practices.
Claiming to be “first and the only company in Turkey, that internationally provides consultancy and military training services at the international defense and interior security sector” in its website, SADAT advertises serving “conventional war and unconventional war and special military operations” training along with acting as “mediator regarding the supplying of the weapons, equipments, vehicles, spare parts, explosives”. The company and set of services described have been brought under attention in Turkey and in international circles. SADAT’s activities were brought first by a twitter whistleblower with over 3 million followers @fuatavni, in 2016 where he claimed that SADAT was established as a secret army and had been involved in training ISIS with support of Turkish Intelligence Agency (MIT). He claimed that SADAT ceased its operations in Syria when western intelligence organizations became aware and was retasked to training teenagers from AKP affiliated Youth Structure and Ottoman Organization (Osmanlı Ocakları) for a possible future civil‐military conflicts.
SADAT was brought into spotlight, after the “peace process” between the Turkish Government and Kurdish affiliated bodies was stopped and widespread urban warfare started between the Turkish Armed Forces and PKK. During these efforts by Armed Forces to reclaim some cities, it was claimed that a paramilitary force was acting outside the armed forces structure and wreaking havoc. On one particular instance, it was alleged that, 34 villagers from Lice was gathered together by a paramilitary force and was about to be burned alive when an Officer from the armed Forces arrived and prevented the mass killing (1). Kurdish MPs questions on whether the allegations that those were SADAT soldiers carried any truth, was not answered by the government.
In fact, there have been couple attempts to start an investigation into SADAT at the parliamentary level. As early as September 2012, MP Ali Rıza OZTURK asked 10 questions regarding origins of SADAT and its alleged involvement into training and equipping Syrian groups inside Syria and Turkey (2). One of the questions is striking as it aims to understand if the government refusal to MPs request to inspect camp in HATAY is related to alleged armed training activities in the camp. It also tries to probe if government has made any payments to SADAT through covert accounts. MP OZTURK’s questions were answered with two sentences denying all allegations (3). A similar attempt to start a probe was left fruitless when MP Fikri SAGLAR questioned the role of SADAT and government involvement into its activities (4), SADAT made the statement that it is not an alternative to Armed Forces and it has capacity to give training in unconventional warfare but has not given any training to any parties yet. SADAT also denied operating any camps in or outside Turkey (5).
SADAT became part of the Russian report to UN on Turkey’s involvement in terror in Syria, which was pulled back afterwards. Sources claim that SADAT was involved in recruiting people from Central Asian countries, transferring and training them in Syria (6). Russian claims depict SADAT as a paramilitary force designed to destabilize foreign countries. This claim was echoed by Turkish opposition party CHP. Russia itself is not a foreigner to the whole of government approach, or hybrid warfare. Based upon plausible deniability, paramilitary forces can be used to shape operational environment, influence political sphere and be prepared for military options.
SADAT’s role in the coup attempt is highly controversial. During the night of the coup many soldiers which claimed to have been deployed under orders for a drill, was beaten or killed brutally by angry mobs. The soldiers that were at the Bosporus Bridge was one particularly striking example where soldiers refrained from using weapons on the civilians, yet was beaten badly or killed (beheaded on one occasion). There are claims that members of SADAT provoked the violence. Social media was filled with bloody photos of members of SADAT and Ottoman Organizations, or videos of them splashing out bullets at seemingly random directions. Michael Rubin stated in an article in Newsweek that “SADAT, which has trained paramilitaries and special forces, is increasingly becoming Erdogan’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Indeed, SADAT appears to have been behind much of the killing of civilians”. SADAT’s efforts in leading and provoking the AKP supporters are viewed as a trial run for Erdogan to mobilize a paramilitary army. Lacking support in the top layers of military, Erdogan appears to be building itself an army to be used against any potential threats from either the armed forces. This new instrument will also be handy in unattributed assaults against political opponents or to quell civil unrest when required.
SADAT’s name again resurfaced at October 2016 within the context of a staged mutiny and false escape plan in prisons that hold political prisoners and critics of Erdoğan. There were widespread claims in social media that, SADAT militants planned to launch a killing spree in prisons under the pretext of an orchestrated escape plan, aiming to kill those involved in coup plot rendering any insight into the truths behind the coup attempt useless. The plan was possibly aborted due to public exposure.
SADAT had a formal association with regime after Erdogan appointed him as the Chief Military Advisor to the President shortly after coup attempt. It has been a rising star for Erdogan and could take over the operations requiring deniability from MIT. Head of MIT, Hakan FIDAN is one of the candidates to replace Erdogan in the future. He made a bid to become a MP in march 2015, but was forced to pull back his application as Erdogan expressed his discontent publicly. Mr. Fidan has been a long trustee of Erdogan but is not safe from suffering the faith of Davutoglu, who was forced to resign when he was presented as a possible alternative to Erdogan.
Erdogan is paving the way for SADAT to become more influential in military circles. A change in military recruitment system was published in decree number 678 dated Nov. 22, 2016 which states “retired officers and noncommissioned officers are tasked with involvement in the recruitment of military personnel and cadets to the Turkish Armed Forces until 2020.” In effect, Turkish Armed Forces’ recruitment system is hacked to allow a radical group to reshape military from bottom up under Erdogan Regime.
Erdogan is in the brink of seizing all power. Armed Forces was regarded to be as the last remaining castle prior to the suspiciously bad coup attempt. Now that the half of the generals are either dismissed or in prison along with another 7000 personnel. Erdogan has activated an unofficial revolutionary guard preparing for the next battle. How will the Eurasianist Perincek group try to secure their newfound prominence in the upper echelons of the Armed forces is unknown. But there is a good possibility that it could mean an upcoming clash between Paramilitary forces under SADAT and regular Armed Forces under the control of Perincek group.