From alleged drug trafficking and a murder cover-up to arms transfers to Islamic militants, a convicted crime leader has been dumping dirt on members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party through a series of revealing videos. They have captivated the nation and made it an unlikely social media phenomenon.
Sedat Peker, a 49-year-old fugitive crime boss who once openly supported Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, has been posting nearly 90-minute long videos from his established base in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, making scandalous but still trickle. not tested. – by a trickle of accusations, in an apparent attempt to settle accounts with political figures.
The weekly YouTube videos have been viewed more than 75 million times, causing an uproar, raising concerns about the Turkish state’s corruption, and putting officials on the defensive. They have also exposed alleged divisions between rival factions within the ruling party and have added to Erdogan’s woes as he battles an economic recession and the coronavirus pandemic.
On Sunday morning, a couple in Istanbul were engrossed in watching Peker’s latest pitch. They were among the millions in Turkey who tuned in.
“I have added (Peker’s videos) to the category of television series that I watch every week,” said Gulistan Atas. “Just like on a television episode, I look forward to it, and every week on Sundays, we make our breakfast when we wake up and watch them along with our breakfast.”
Dressed in a vest or half-buttoned shirt displaying a medallion, Peker taunts his opponents from behind a desk with neatly arranged notes, prayer beads, and books, promising to bring them to ruin using nothing but a “tripod and a camera”.
His initial videos were directed at former Interior Minister Mehmet Agar and her son, Tolga, a legislator from the ruling party, whom he accused of raping a young Kazakh journalism student and then covering up her murder as a suicide. . Mehmet Agar, Peker suggested, misappropriated a luxury marina that may have been used in drug trafficking operations. Hagar later resigned from the navy board of directors.
Subsequent videos launched accusations against businessmen and media figures close to the government, as well as the son of former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, alleging that he was involved in drug smuggling from Venezuela. But the target of Peker’s most scathing and mocking attacks is Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, whom he accuses of abuse of power and corruption while he aspired to become Turkey’s president. Peker justifies saying everything by saying that Soylu betrayed him despite the crime leader’s help in defeating a rival faction within the ruling party.
All those involved have rejected Peker’s accusations.
In an explosive claim with international dimensions, the mob boss said that a former Erdogan security adviser accused of leading a paramilitary force had sent weapons to al-Qaida-linked militants in Syria. Erdogan has yet to address those claims, although the government has in the past denied allegations that he had armed jihadists.
Erdogan ignored Peker’s videos for weeks, but broke his silence on May 26, when he dismissed the mob leader’s earlier allegations as a conspiracy against Turkey.
“We will spoil these games, these plots. No one should doubt that we will interrupt this tortuous operation, ”Erdogan said. “We pursue criminal gang members wherever they flee in the world … We will not leave these criminals alone until we bring them back to our country and hand them over to the judiciary.”
Peker responded to Erdogan that week and suggested that the Turkish strongman could be the focus of future videos. He later said that he would talk about Erdogan after meeting him with US President Joe Biden on June 14 so as not to “weaken his hand.” In his last video on Sunday, he said his revelations would be made with respect and would not harm the state itself.
“Finding me and bringing me (to Turkey) will change reality,” he said.
The opposition parties, for their part, have used the complaints to demand the resignation of those involved, as well as parliamentary and judicial investigations.
The ruling party and its nationalist allies have blocked opposition proposals to launch parliamentary investigations into Peker’s claims, as well as the arms smuggling allegations.
Authorities have issued a new arrest warrant for Peker.
Can Selcuki, director of the Turkiye Raporu survey and analysis platform, said of Peker: “We must not forget that he is a criminal,” but explained the popularity of the videos as a need for information.
“It seems to me that people are asking this illegal operator these questions because they cannot get answers elsewhere. And this tells me that there is a growing demand in Turkish society for more transparency, ”said Selcuki.
Peker addresses his viewers, especially those under 40, as the true masters of Turkey who have the power to demand responsibility and change.
Peker, a nationalist who advocates for unity among Turkish-speaking nations, has been in and out of jail since the age of 17 for his involvement in organized crime and other crimes. After his last release from prison in 2014, he held demonstrations in support of Erdogan’s party and launched threats against his opponents. His 2015 wedding to Ozge Peker, who was his attorney, attracted a host of celebrity guests.
In April, an operation was launched against Peker’s group that led to the arrest of around 60 of his associates.
They also searched his home in Istanbul. Peker maintains that he was forced to speak up after his wife and his two daughters were allegedly abused and humiliated during the police raid.
“They ask me why I do it,” Peker said in the last video. “I swear to God that at first I did it out of anger, I was expecting an apology … Now, I don’t know why I’m doing it … I feel like doing it.”
Gulistan Atas’ husband, Alparslan Atas, said that Peker’s videos were like the movies “The Godfather” and “Scarface”, to be etched forever in people’s memory.
“I like that the dirty clothes of the state have come to light and spread because knowing that people who are in politics with their hands on the Koran can at the same time do business with cocaine gives me interesting information,” he said. .