Group linked to Gezi Park riots keeps harassing US soldiers

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 17.04.2016 20:01
Updated 17.04.2016 20:04

An incident on Saturday at a United States airbase in southern Turkey showed once again that U.S. soldiers are not too careful when it comes to the far-right Youth Union of Turkey (TGB), a group known for its active involvement in 2013 Gezi Park riots. Two activists from the group managed to sneak into İncirlik Air Base in Adana and went as far as trying to put a sack over the head of a soldier before they were foiled and handed over to Turkish authorities who detained the duo. This was not the first time that members of the TGB, which pursues a staunchly anti-American stance, put sacks over soldiers or tried to do so as the group is known for similar attacks in the past years.

The sack is representative of a notorious case dating back to 2003 where Turkish soldiers in Northern Iraq were detained by U.S. troops who escorted them out of their compound with hoods over their heads. The incident sparked fury in Turkey at the height of U.S. incursion into Iraq and inspired "sack attacks" by the TGB.

Two men, local TGB representative Yalçın Semir Akarsu and group member Cenk Kızılırmak, were at the base for an event where locals were invited. Akarsu approached a soldier and started berating him with a prepared speech. "You put sacks over the heads of our soldiers in 2003. You are responsible for this and the terror events in our country. Bombs explode every day; we receive news of the dead. You are responsible for this. You are not able to leave your airbase, but we are here, entering your airbase and putting sacks over your head," Akarsu said while Kızılırmak filmed the episode with his cellphone before releasing the video on TGB's social media accounts. As Akarsu proceeded to put the sack on the unidentified soldier, Turkish security officials who were also in attendance at the event intervened and detained the two men.

The TGB is known to be one of the most important groups that participated in the Gezi Park protests which took place in Istanbul's Taksim Square as demonstrations against a development project mushroomed into nationwide mass protests against the government. It resulted in the deaths of eight people, including a police officer as protests turned into riots exploited by terrorist groups. The TGB is known for similar attacks on U.S. soldiers visiting Turkey though most are foiled. In 2014, several TGB members succeeded in "sacking" soldiers on shore leave in Istanbul's Eminönü district.

Putting sacks over U.S. soldiers is viewed as "vengeance" for the infamous "hood event" in Iraq. In 2003, a group of Turkish troops operating in Sulaymaniyah in Northern Iraq as part of a special forces team were detained by U.S. troops who raided their safe house, allegedly acting on a tip-off that Turkmens in the safe house would assassinate a local Iraqi politician. The U.S. troops put hoods on the captured military personnel, including a major in the well-publicized operation. The incident caused public outrage in Turkey and the soldiers were released after 60 hours in captivity.

İncirlik Air Base officials did not comment on the incident while it remains unclear whether the officials were aware that the two men were affiliated with the TGB before granting them access to the base. Meanwhile, a local news agency reported that the sack used in the incident was obtained by two assailants inside the base, apparently during a sack race.

Adana police later questioned Akarsu and Kızılırmak, and they have been scheduled to testify to a prosecutor.

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