HARBORS Campaign: Turkey

Turkey’s History of Harboring Terrorist Operatives and Financiers

Turkey has a history of harboring terrorist operatives and financiers from various extremist groups. Hamas opened a bureau in Istanbul in 2012, from which it has coordinated terror attacks and terror financing in the West Bank*Shlomi Eldar, “Turkey's Hamas ‘bureau,’” Al-Monitor, December 1, 2014, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/fr/originals/2014/12/saleh-al-arouri-khaled-meshaal-hamas-leadership-turkey-gaza.html.x. Members of the Taliban and its affiliated Haqqani network allegedly operate within Turkey.*"Treasury Sanctions Taliban and Haqqani Network Financiers and Facilitators," U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 25, 2018, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0265; "Turkey Delegation 'Represents All Taliban Factions,’” Tolo News, January 14, 2018, http://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/turkey-delegation-%E2%80%98represents-all-taliban-factions%E2%80%99.x The international Muslim Brotherhood reportedly regrouped in Istanbul following the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.*Mohammad Abdel Kader, "Turkey's relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood," Al Arabiya, October 14, 2013, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/alarabiya-studies/2013/10/14/Turkey-s-relationship-with-the-Muslim-Brotherhood.html.x The violent Turkish extremist movement Grey Wolves openly operates across the country while maintaining ties to the National Movement Party in Turkey’s government.*“MHP’li Kılavuz, Ülkü Ocakları Genel Başkanlığının sona erdiğini açıkladı,” Hürriyet (Istanbul), January 2, 2019, https://www.Hürriyet (Istanbul).com.tr/gundem/mhpli-kilavuz-ulku-ocaklari-genel-baskanliginin-sona-erdigini-acikladi-41070109.x

Multiple extremist organizations operate within Turkey, primarily the Grey Wolves, the Taliban, and Hamas. CEP also calls on Turkey to act in accordance with international sanctions against these groups and expel or arrest all members of the Grey Wolves, Taliban, and Hamas currently domiciled or operating in Turkey.

Prior to the Taliban’s August 2021 takeover of Afghanistan, the Turkish government sought to position itself as a broker between the Taliban and the Afghan government. In 2012, the Turkish government agreed to host a Taliban office before the group decided to locate in Qatar in 2013. * Beginning in late 2017, Taliban delegations began meeting in Turkey for unofficial negotiations with the Afghan government. In January 2018, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that the Taliban members meeting in Turkey represent the group. However, the leader of the Taliban delegation in Turkey, Mawlawi Abdul Rauf, said that his group represents all Taliban factions except “individuals who are not willing to opt for intra-Afghan peace talks and who want to talk through Americans.” * After the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in August 2021, Turkey maintained its embassy in Afghanistan and reaffirmed its relations with Afghanistan’s new Taliban government. Turkey called on other government to establish ties with the Taliban government while making overtures to increasing diplomatic and economic cooperation with the Taliban. * While Turkey has called on the international community to engage with the Taliban government, Turkish officials have also clarified that recognition and engagement are separate issues. In October 2021, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated the international community’s goal should be preventing the collapse of the Afghan economy. * As of November 2022, Turkey has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a hydroelectric dam in Helmand province. *
Haqqani Network:

The U.S. government charges that Haqqani member Gula Khan Hamidi has coordinated the movement of jihadist foreign fighters into and through Turkey since at least 2013 and as recently as March 2017. According to the U.S. government, Hamidi has smuggled individuals from Afghanistan to Syria, and from Turkey into and around Europe. In October 2014, Hamidi’s network coordinated the travel of al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban members into Turkey. * “Treasury Sanctions Taliban and Haqqani Network Financiers and Facilitators,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, January 25, 2018, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0265. x Mawlawi Abdul Rauf, leader of the Taliban’s delegation in Turkey, said that his group represents all Taliban factions, including the Haqqani Network. * Chad Garland and Zubair Babakarkhail, “Q&A: Afghan Taliban open Doha office,” Stars and Stripes, January 14, 2018, https://www.stripes.com/sports/four-party-talks-with-taliban-in-turkey-could-pave-the-way-to-afghanistan-peace-deal-1.506737; “Turkey Delegation ‘Represents All Taliban Factions,’” Tolo News, January 14, 2018, http://www.tolonews.com/afghanistan/turkey-delegation-%E2%80%98represents-all-taliban-factions%E2%80%99. x

Muslim Brotherhood:

Members of Turkey’s leading Justice and Development Party (AKP)—including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—have provided various forms of support to the Brotherhood, including granting asylum to wanted Brotherhood members and equipping them with satellite television and radio stations. Some Brotherhood fugitives have been allowed to openly congregate in Turkey. * Svante Cornell and M.K. Kaya, “The Naqshbandi-Khalidi Order and Political Islam in Turkey,” Hudson Institute, September 3, 2015, https://hudson.org/research/11601-the-naqshbandi-khalidi-order-and-political-islam-in-turkey; Mohammad Abdel Kader, “Turkey’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Al Arabiya, October 14, 2013, http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/alarabiya-studies/2013/10/14/Turkey-s-relationship-with-the-Muslim-Brotherhood.html; Umar Farooq, “Turkey Nurtures Egypt’s ‘Terrorist’ Muslim Brothers,” Daily Beast, April 15, 2015, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/04/15/turkey-nurtures-egypt-s-terrorist-muslim-brothers.html; “Egyptian court sentences Muslim Brotherhood members to life,” Deutsche Welle, July 5, 2014, http://www.dw.com/en/egyptian-court-sentences-muslim-brotherhood-members-to-life/a-17760287; “Pro-Brotherhood TV presenter to stand trial in absentia on 8 July,” Daily News Egypt, June 29, 2015, http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/06/29/pro-brotherhood-tv-presenter-to-stand-trial-in-absentia-on-8-july/. x Turkish officials have rejected calls to suspend the Brotherhood’s activities in the country. * Pinar Tremblay, “Turkey not yet ready to give up on Muslim Brotherhood,” Al-Monitor, December 12, 2021, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2021/12/turkey-not-yet-ready-give-muslim-brotherhood. x In March 2021, Turkey restored diplomatic contacts with Egypt eight years after suspending them following the fall of Egypt’s Brotherhood government. Nonetheless, Turkey remained opposed to Egypt labeling the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. * “Turkey says it still opposes Egypt labeling Muslim Brotherhood ‘terrorists,’” Reuters, April 20, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/turkey-says-it-remains-against-egypt-labeling-muslim-brotherhood-terrorists-2021-04-20. x

Hamas established a bureau in Istanbul in 2012. Turkish authorities have reportedly permitted Hamas military training exercises in the country. Hamas operatives working in Turkey actively recruit Palestinians living in Turkey, Jordan, Syria, and other Arab countries, and bring them to Turkey for training. Many of the weapons used by Hamas in the West Bank were also reportedly supplied by the group’s Istanbul bureau. * Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has praised Turkey for its “critical” role providing political support for Hamas and the Palestinian cause * . In addition to those residing in Turkey, top Hamas leaders from the Gaza Strip have regularly traveled to Turkey. Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri created and previously ran Hamas’s bureau in Istanbul until his expulsion from the country in 2015 * . Nonetheless, he has reportedly been seen attending several events in Turkey * . In August 2020, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hosted Haniyeh and other Hamas leaders. The United States condemned Turkey’s “continued outreach” to Hamas, while the Turkish government rejected the criticism and called on the United States to adopt a more “balanced policy.” * Turkish declarations during Hamas’s 21-day conflict with Israel in May 2021 seemingly favored Hamas. Erdoğan referred to Israel as a “terror state,” while Vice President Fuat Oktay called on Muslim nations to “take a clear stance” against Israel’s strikes on the Gaza Strip. * In November 2021, Israeli security forces broke up a West Bank Hamas cell allegedly receiving direction from Hamas leaders Saleh al-Arouri and Zacharia Najib in Turkey. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid subsequently called on the Turkish government to close Hamas’s offices in the country. * A senior Turkish official told Al-Monitor in December 2021 that ending Hamas’s operations in Turkey “is not even an option open for negotiation for us.” * Israeli officials have continued to stress that any normalization between the countries must include limiting Hamas’s activities in Turkey. * Hamas’s Investment Office holds assets estimated to be worth more than $500 million invested in companies operating in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East.*“Treasury Targets Covert Hamas Investment Network and Finance Official,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, May 24, 2022, https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/jy0798.x In November 2022, Turkey declined a request by Israel to deport Hamas members as Minister of the Interior Mevlut Cavusoglu told a Turkish news outlet that Turkey does “not see Hamas as a terrorist organization.” Given that Turkey does not classify Hamas as a terrorist organization, scholars note that there would be no legal framework to deport its members. *
Grey Wolves:
The Grey Wolves is an international fascist, Turkish nationalist, and pan-Turkic organization and movement, which rose to prominence in the late 1970s in Turkey.*"Grey Wolves," Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, accessed July 12, 2021, https://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/grey-wolves.x While the group, which is usually called the Ülkü Ocakları (Idealist Hearths) in Turkish, formally operates as a political and cultural organization, their extremist ideology has also inspired non-members to violent acts.*"Grey Wolves," Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium, accessed July 12, 2021, https://www.trackingterrorism.org/group/grey-wolves; Yildrim Türker, "Asker Sevag’a ne oldu?," Radikal, May 9, 2011, http://www.radikal.com.tr/yazarlar/yildirim-turker/asker-sevaga-ne-oldu-1048713/.x Turkish politician Alparslan Türkeş formed the Wolves in 1966, just three years after he founded the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), a participant in Turkey’s current (as of November 2022) governing coalition.*"Turkish Politicians Commemorate MHP Founder Alparslan Türkeş," Daily Sabah, April 4, 2021, https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/turkish-politicians-commemorate-mhp-founder-alparslan-turkes/newsAndrew Wilks, “Erdogan's nationalist ally supports talks with pro-Kurdish party,” Middle East Monitor, November 10, 2022, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/11/erdogans-nationalist-ally-supports-talks-pro-kurdish-party#ixzz7kjTBtPVy.x The Wolves functioned as the MHP’s armed branch in the 1970s, carrying out attacks and assassinations on leftists, journalists, and dissidents. *Meral Ugur Cinar, "When Defense Becomes Offense: The Role of Threat Narratives in the Turkish Civil War of the 1970s," Turkish Studies 15, no. 1 (March 2014): 3, http://repository.bilkent.edu.tr/bitstream/handle/11693/49456/When_defense_becomes_offense_the_role_of_threat_narratives_in_the_Turkish_Civil_War_of_the_1970s.pdf;jsessionid=1832A6B5686874A4E33EDF3AAC813490?sequence=1.x The group is still tied to the MHP, and Grey Wolves members view the political party’s current chairman, Devlet Bahçeli, as the leader of the organization.*"MHP’li Kılavuz, Ülkü Ocakları Genel Başkanlığının sona erdiğini açıkladı," Hürriyet (Istanbul), January 2, 2019, https://www.Hürriyet (Istanbul).com.tr/gundem/mhpli-kilavuz-ulku-ocaklari-genel-baskanliginin-sona-erdigini-acikladi-41070109.x In June 2022, Grey Wolves members located in Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina reportedly sent threats via phone calls, text messages, and social media targeting Balkan journalists reporting on the Grey Wolves and their activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. *

Muslim Brotherhood in Turkey Report:

Though Turkey has no official Muslim Brotherhood chapter, some members of the governing Justice and Development Party have provided various forms of support to the Brotherhood.

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Turkey Country Report

In recent years, Islamist terror groups including ISIS have consolidated on Turkey’s borders with Syria and Iraq. Large numbers of foreign fighters have also crossed through Turkey, hoping to join these groups. Following decades of attempted Kurdish secession, Ankara has nervously witnessed the formation of a Kurdish statelet in northern Syria.

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Fact Sheet: Turkey’s Approach to Countering Terrorism

Turkey maintains open relations with internationally sanctioned extremist groups such as the Taliban, Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas.

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Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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