By Abdullah Bozkurt
Most of the foreign fighters and their cohorts who were caught from 2014 to 2016 by the Turkish military on suspicion of jihadist activity were released, secret intelligence documents obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed.
According to the classified statistical data kept by the intelligence branch of the Turkish gendarmerie in the Jan. 1, 2014 and June 30, 2016 time period, only 37 percent of detained foreign jihadists were arrested, corresponding to 224 out of 607 detainees. The gendarmerie, which has jurisdiction as the law enforcement agency in rural and border areas, caught 311 Turkish jihadists in the same period. Turkish courts arrested 39 percent of the jihadists while releasing the rest.
The figures represent only the tip of the iceberg because the data on the number of detainees processed by the police department, Turkey’s main law enforcement agency with jurisdiction in the cities and towns that host 79 percent of the Turkish population, is missing from the tally shown in the intelligence documents. Moreover, the data say nothing about how many of those who were arrested were let go during trial. Most suspects who are formally arrested on charges of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda affiliation in Turkey are released quickly during legal proceedings in court. The number of successful convictions remains very low in the Turkish criminal justice system because of the permissive political environment under the Islamist government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
They nevertheless give a snapshot in real figures based on official records about what happened in those years with respect to foreign nationals who came to Turkey in order to cross into Syria and Iraq and engage in an armed jihadist fight. Over time, the number of jihadists who arrived in Turkey had increased according to the pattern that can be deciphered from the figures. For example, in 2014 only eight who came from Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Azerbaijan and Turkey were detained by the gendarmerie. The next year the number jumped to 499, and the countries of origin were expanded to include the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Japan, China, Russia, India and others.
The intelligence documents divided foreign detainees into terrorists, collaborators, sympathizers and those who aid and abet. The documents did not have any information about how the military logged detainees according to the different classifications and what criteria were used to distinguish them.
The figures indicate that more men (700) joined the jihadist cause than women (202) in the period covered by the report. The number of children was recorded as 16.
The six-page report that shows the breakdown of the nationalities of foreign fighters is posted below:breakdown