More than 30 armed attacks have been carried out by motorcycle hitmen in Istanbul in the past year, according to data compiled by Gazete Duvar.
Similar attacks have taken place in Izmir, Karaman, Adana, Bursa, Diyarbakir and Ankara.
Most of the incidents neither got significant coverage in the media nor did they top the country’s agenda. In some cases there were deaths, while in others the gunmen opted to simply wound their target or take aim at a residence or workplace.
In September, Jovan Vukotic, head of Montenegro’s Skaljari criminal clan, was shot dead by a motorcycle hitman in Istanbul. His name was notorious in the city, making his death the number one topic for the local media for a few days.
Video source of story pic screengrab: The moment of the assassination of Jovan Vukotic. The hit was purely professional. One person rode the motorbike, while the hitman sat on the back seat. The hitman shot only at his target in the car, while both the car and the motorbike were moving.
In January, Sinan Ates, a former head of the Grey Wolves (Ulku Ocaklari), was shot dead by motorbikers in Ankara. He also topped local headlines for around a week.
The Grey Wolves group is the youth wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the junior coalition partner of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
It is said that Ates was also close to the palace administration and, as a result, some details of his case were “leaked” to the media.
The organiser of the murder was said to be Dogukan Cep, a gangster active in the Gulsuyu district of Istanbul. He previously served among paramilitary forces used during the Syria War. He took to violent organised crime after returning to Turkey.
The latest wave of gangsterism that has afflicted Turkey is in fact related to the Syria War. From 2011, many young men in Turkey were recruited to fight against the Assad regime. When the war entered its phase of stabilisation in around 2015, the now experienced “para-militants” returned home. As per usual, those who risked their lives for their state, gained immunity in their “para-official” drug businesses and other criminal activities.
This is not the first wave of para-official gangsterism that Turkey experienced. The previous wave, borne by the state’s war against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) starting from the end of 1980s, was a grave matter for Turkey in the 1990s. Fugitive gangster Sedat “The Botox” Peker, who last year went viral on social media when he started singing like a canary in video posts that revealed the crimes of government officials, was a product of this wave.
Prior to the war on the PKK came the Cold War days when in the 1970s the Grey Wolves were used to “cleanse” leftists. It was in the 1980s that they turned into the “Grey Wolves mafia”.
The whole phenomenon has echoes of Sultan Abdulhamid’s Hamidiye irregular cavalry regiments of more than a century ago.
As “The Botox” went to work airing the Turkish state’s dirty linen in public, it was last year becoming increasingly clear that Turkey has turned into a Wild West for gangsters who have been shooting each other with gay abandon across the country.
In addition to the local gangs, foreign gangsters have been increasingly basing themselves in Turkey due to the Erdogan administration’s unending “wealth amnesty laws,” which have been in effect since 2008.
Basically, no one ever asks, “Where did you come by your fortune?” when someone brings a pile of money or trunk of gold into Turkey. It’s no surprise to see the gangsters arriving with laundered money. The shooting has followed.
Instances of Iranian and Azerbaijani mafiosi going at their foes with guns in Istanbul shopping malls or a Montenegrin gang hiring a local gang to assassinate a Montenegrin rival are standard fare nowadays.