On August 15, 2019 an article published in Turkish media by Ruwa Shah, daughter of separatist leader Altaf Ahmad Shah, wrote about how she feels for her allegedly besieged home while staying thousands of miles away in Turkey. While sharing her views she also mentioned that children in Kashmir never had a normal life.
Altaf Shah is an accused of terror funding in a case registered in 2017 by India’s central probe agency National Investigation Agency (NIA). As per the NIA investigation, separatist leader Altaf Shah was found to be involved in receiving and collecting funds through illegal means, including hawala for causing disruption in Kashmir Valley by way of pelting stones on security forces, burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India.
The article, published by Ruwa Shah in Turkish media, is part of a well-planned conspiracy to malign India’s image internationally. The propaganda against India in the Turkish media is part of a larger conspiracy. Not only Kashmiri separatists, but it has been seen in the last few years that a large number of Pakistani journalists have been hired by Turkish media on the instruction of Erdogan government, to capitalize on extremism in the domestic politics and to advance the wagon of political Islam to the world, Turkey has employed a large number of Pakistani nationals with extremist inclinations in the Turkish media, especially in the two most prominent global news platforms.
As per some analysts, “Anadolu Agency and TRT of Turkish media, previously, these two news agencies preferred Americans and British to hire as journalists. However, as Erdogan began to promote radicalism at domestic front and push political Islam internationally, the Turkish press went on a rapid spree of hiring Pakistani journalists, who believe in radical Islam and could be further used as soldiers to materialize Erdogan’s global aspirations through political Islam.”
Currently, out of 11 copy editors in Anadolu Agency, five posts have been occupied by the Pakistani nationals. The number is constantly increasing as more and more Pakistanis are joining the news organisation. Similarly, the Diplomatic Editor of the TRT — Mohsin, is also a Pakistani origin individual. It is believed that he has been tasked to ensure common interests of Pakistan and Turkey together in coverage and promote the common agenda of both the countries at international platforms. Besides these journalists, Turkish media has also hired a number of separatist elements from Jammu and Kashmir.
Foreign policy observers argue that “A number of Pakistani journalists working with these news outlets have been placed by the Pakistani ISI in the Turkish media to strengthen Pakistan’s position in Turkey as well as to use Turkey and allied elements to an advantage for taking on India, however, the biggest damage inflicted by Pakistani journalists with extremist thoughts has been on the syncretic culture of Turkey, which was based on Sufi thoughts. Individuals working in Turkish media are also working towards replacing the liberal form of Islam being practiced in Turkey with the radical Pakistani-Deobandi Islam.”
Many believe, sooner or later, the Turkish society will have to wake up to the damage caused by the radicalization efforts of Erdogan government with Pakistan’s help as besides providing geopolitical mileage to Erdogan, the radical Pakistani journalists have also been responsible for pushing extremist content domestically in Turkey and manufacturing consent amongst the common public in Erdogan’s favour.
Turkish President Erdogan has pulled off another Hagia Sophia. After the conversion of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Hagia Sophia and Kariye Church, Heybeliada is his next target and many others might be in the line. His government plans to convert the Heybeliada Sanatorium — a hospital built in 200 acres of land on one of ‘Princes’ Islands’, to a religious school for radicalising the youngsters. The land has been taken from the Health Ministry and handed over to Diyanet — the Directorate of Religious Affairs.
Besides being a significant development, it is a more symbolic one. Heybeliada previously had a religious school which was shut down in 1971 by the government. Hence, through this move Erdogan wants to communicate to the Muslim Ummah that he is on a mission of re-establishing Islamic institutions and reinforcing Islamic symbols.
This is believed to be a primary step of the process of handing over the religious education from the control of the Ministry of National Education’s General Directorate of Religious Education to the Diyanet. Currently,uncountable numbers of schools are being run to radicalize the Turkish youth by training them in radical Islamic theology, raising up as clerics, and later sending on a mission to radicalize the Turkish population and preach political Islam elsewhere in the world. Another idea is to raise the upcoming generations as a herd of non-critical, non-inquisitive, and non-inventive individuals who could be easily lured to accept the supremacy of Erdogan and can fight for his interests.
Erdogan and his party have been focusing on weaker students as well as those coming from the marginalized societies. On failing to secure admissions in better schools due to poor academic performance, academically weaker students are left with no option except joining religious schools. Further, the education structure in Turkey is highly fragmented on the basis of class division. The affluent families send their kids to private schools and the middle-class families send their children to public schools. Whereas, underprivileged families usually send their wards to religious Islamic clergy schools or Madrassas, where they fall victim to the radicalization agenda of Erdogan.
Under Erdogan’s regime, the Diyanet has become all-pervasive and one of the most powerful institutions in Turkey. The Diyanet is also lavishly spending on printing religious calendars for children of Turkey. The Diyanet has recently issued a receipt of 10.6 million Turkish Liras for designing and printing calendars for the year 2021. It plans to publish around 3.42 million calendars in different formats and contents, including those for children. The power consolidation by the Diyanet and its growing expenditure highlights the kind of prominence it has gained during Erdogan’s regime.
Besides instigating radical feelings, another potential threat is of triggering sectarian violence in Turkey as the country houses at least 30 major Islamic sects, divided in hundreds of divisions.
It is quite possible that Pakistani journalists could replicate the efforts of Pakistan that it took to fragment societies in areas like Sindh, Gilgiit-Baltistan, and PoJK to ensure the marginalization of Sufi culture. Hence, Turkish society will have to take a cautious approach in order to dodge the upcoming threat to their pluralistic society and take the content published by Pakistani journalists with a pinch of salt.