Recep Tayyip Erdogan and family members have stated their intention to file a criminal complaint of insult and slander against a journalist-in-exile who they say has falsely claimed a company associated with the Turkish president’s son, Burak Erdogan, continued trading with Israel despite the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip that has led to the deaths of at least 15,000 Palestinians.
Metin Cihan alleged on social media that, while the Turkish president was condemning the Israeli massacres in Palestine, a ship belonging to the company made an Israel shipment.
Erdogan is already under some pressure from critics who see him as pursuing a “words not action” approach to Israel. While those words have been extremely aggressive, at the same time Turkey has not stopped its shipments of Azerbaijani oil to Israel and Turkish conglomerate Zorlu Holding runs power plants in Israel that provide the country with around 7% of its electricity.
On November 30, bianet interviewed Cihan, who publishes his research independently, with no affiliation to any institution or person.
Cihan told the publication that he “identified that Mert Cetinkaya, the partner of Burak Erdogan, was making shipments [to Israel]. I shared all my sources and detection methods. It was irrefutable and was not denied. Manta Shipping stated that trade with Israel continued, and they couldn't do anything about it because a contract had been made before the war.
“I also determined that Eren Holding, known for its Islamic 'sensitivities,' was regularly making cement shipments.
“In addition to these, I found that from October 8 onwards, 78 ships from Limak Holding's Iskenderun Port made shipments to Israel, carrying approximately 655,000 tons of cargo. These figures are as of three days ago.
“And, of course, there are more. Trade with Israel continues smoothly. Regular shipments are also made from the Ambarli Akcansa Port, belonging to the Sabanci Group. Kalkavan Group's ships continue regular shipments, and so do Arkas' ships.”
Asked what prompted him to start reporting on companies from Turkey continuing trade with Israel amid the current Palestine crisis, Cihan said: “One night, when I woke up and looked at the news on social media, there were images of massacre from Gaza. I felt helpless, thinking we couldn't do anything. I respect initiatives like boycotts, but it was clear that it didn't affect Israel. At that moment, I came across a post from a HUDA PAR (Free Cause Party) member of [Turkey’s] parliament. He claimed that a tanker departing from Kocaeli was carrying fuel to Israeli jets.
“First, I thought about whether Israel needed shipments of oil from Turkey. When I researched, I learned something I didn't know. Israel is completely dependent on external sources for oil. It imports oil from many countries, especially Azerbaijan. This shipment was happening through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, and Turkey was the last shipment point.
“Turkey was making statements against Israel, but it was not imposing any sanctions. I thought I could track tankers transporting oil from Turkey to Israel on Marinetraffic. When I queried ships departing from Turkish ports and arriving at Israeli ports, I saw that not only oil was being shipped, but an entire trade was continuing as if everything was normal.
“Hundreds of shipments had been made since the beginning of the war, and they were still ongoing. After that day, I continued to deepen my research.”
Cihan fled Turkey after coming under pressure after exposing the story of the suspicious death of 11-year-old Rabia Naz Vatan, who lost her life in April 2018 in suspicious circumstances in Eynesil in Giresun province on the eastern Black Sea coast.
Public prosecutors claimed that Vatan committed suicide or fell from the roof of a building but her father, a former supporter of Turkey’s ruling AKP party, alleged that she died in a traffic accident in front of her home involving a nephew of Coskun Somuncuoglu, the former AKP mayor of Eynesil.