With Erdogan’s decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the world-class Christian monument belongs to DIYANET. What is DIYANET? Officially, it is the state Religious Affairs Agency. It was founded in 1924 and all mosques and imams are under its jurisdiction. Its role has changed from time to time. For several years, in fact, DIYANET has become a branch of the Turkish secret services.
By NEFELI LYGEROU
The Turkish state has always monitored Turkish immigrants in Europe, but since the Erdogan-Gulen rupture, Ankara has gone beyond all bounds, using mostly imams serving as informants. In Germany, the head of the Federal Intelligence Service (BfV) Hans-Georg Maassen was forced in 2017 to announce that Turkish secret services would not be allowed to spy inside German territory. The announcement was made at the start of an investigation, following an order from the prosecutor’s office, for possible espionage activities of Turkish imams.
After a thorough investigation, the security authorities confirmed that Turkish imams were keeping files on Turkish and Kurdish immigrants, even those who had been naturalized as Germans. “We cannot accept Turkish intelligence services operating in Germany against German interests and that is why we are protesting,” Maassen told reporters in Berlin.
In fact, in early December 2016, German police arrested a 31-year-old Turkish man on suspicion of providing information to Turkish secret agents about Kurds living in Germany. The statement said: “The accused has serious suspicions that he works for the Turkish intelligence agencies and provides information about Kurds living in Germany, their addresses, their contacts and their political activity.”
In fact, Erdogan’s Turkey is exporting its internal conflicts to Europe. This is also confirmed in the case of the Netherlands. Dutch security authorities have long denounced imams/agents who file charges against people of Turkish and Kurdish origin. They have even stated that they will resolutely face any intervention that Ankara’s “long arm” is attempting.
The DIYANET network
The aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt had forced the Dutch government to respond to pressure from those opposed to the Erdogan regime. It is indicative that Turkey’s ambassador to The Hague was summoned to the Dutch Foreign Ministry when a Turkish official admitted that he had compiled a list of Gulen’s supporters in the Netherlands!
Turkey has set foot in Europe, through DIYANET, which offers coverage, as it not only controls mosques in Turkey, but also sends imams abroad. It is no secret that Turkey has undertaken a major program to build mosques and Islamic centers in Europe and the United States.
Many European governments have openly expressed concern that the Turkish Religious Affairs Agency has long deviated from its religious duties and become an informal spy network controlled by MIT. There are many incidents, but only a few of them have been made public.
Directly under Erdogan
In 2017, Belgium rejected visa applications for 12 Turkish imams because it considered them suspects of espionage. In March of that year, Bulgaria expelled an imam of Turkish descent who had ties to DIYANET on the grounds that it posed a threat to the country’s national security. In a briefing by a Turkish parliamentary committee, the Religious Affairs Service acknowledged that it was gathering information from 38 countries about “suspicious” activities through imams.
In particular, he said the imams were gathering information and sending reports from Abkhazia, Germany, Albania, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, D-Bulgaria and Bulgaria, Finland, Georgia, the Netherlands, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Montenegro, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Northern Macedonia, Mongolia Mauritania, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.
DIYANET has been expanding its operations abroad since the 1980s, but under Erdogan’s government, its operations have expanded. Indicative of the importance Erdogan attaches to DIYANET is that it has been subordinated to him, so that it can become, without institutional barriers, a tool of Turkish foreign policy and at the same time a tool for attracting Sunni recruits, but also a tool for controlling Turkish and Kurdish opposition. It is equally indicative that its annual budget is larger than the budget of a total of 10 ministries!