Place of Birth: Diyabakir, Turkey;
Halis Bayancuk (also known as Abu Hanzala) is a member of the Zaza ethnic group born in Diyarbakir, Turkey. He had been arrested in 2008, 2011, 2014, 2015, and 2017 in police raids connected to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist groups, as well as in a raid connected to the 2003 truck bombings of the Bet Israel and Neve Shalom synagogues in Istanbul that killed 23 people.
Though he was imprisoned for about five and a half out of the last 10 years, Bayancuk’s June 2018 sentence is the longest he has received. Turkish media, including state-run media, consistently describe Bayancuk as the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Turkey.
In December 2014, a video surfaced in which Bayancuk said: “The Islamic State (ISIS) is our brother in faith. We count every attack against them as against ourselves. I believe that this war is a war of creed. I am with my brothers. I consider whoever does an attack against our brothers, to have done this attack against me. For this reason each of us must make our side on this issue clear.”
In May 2017, the Sakarya attorney general’s office accused Bayancuk of operating a secret mosque to recruit members for the Islamic State. A May 2018 indictment following an investigation in Diyarbakir stated that Bayancuk had said in his religious lectures that jihad is a religious obligation for all Muslims and that those who do not wage jihad are idolators.
To those who wished to make jihad, he reportedly said: “Let’s send you on jihad, we’ll cover all the expenses.” Levent Uysal, who was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in planning the June 2016 attack that killed 46 people and wounded 163 at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, was found with audio and video recordings of Bayancuk’s lectures on his phone.
Uysal said of Bayancuk: “Like my other teachers, Ebu Hanzala is one who gives Islamic knowledge. I listen to Ebu Hanzala to learn Islam.” According to Bayancuk’s personal Twitter account, he is being held in the Silivri Closed Prison No. 9, located outside of Istanbul.
Promoting Salafi-jihadi ideology:
Bayancuk’s writings and videos are shared and promoted on many Turkish-language Salafi-jihadi websites and social media accounts, but the content is first uploaded to two websites with which Bayancuk is personally associated.
One, Tevhiddersleri.tv, hosts over 2,000 videos and audio recordings of his lectures, while the other, Tevhiddergisi.net, hosts his writings and those of 35 other writers who appear to share his Salafi-jihadi views, along with a monthly Salafi-jihadi magazine called Tevhid (“Monotheism”). Aside from their focus on Bayancuk’s lectures and writing, the two websites also link to the same social media accounts, have the same “About Us” page, promote the same books, and share a similar appearance and writing style.
Many videos on Tevhiddersleri.tv discuss jihad, and Tevhiddergisi.net offers books such as The Method Of The People Of The Sunnah And The Fundamentals Of Jihad, and Scenes From The Jihad Of The Prophet’s Companions for sale and in PDF. Almost every issue of Tevhid magazine mentions jihad, while well over half of the issues have full articles on the subject.
Though the administrators of this collection of websites and social media accounts do not refer to themselves as such, they can be thought of as parts of a single organization and therefore will be referred to in this report as the Tevhid Organization.
The Tevhid Organization has at least five websites: Tevhiddersleri.tv and Tevhiddergisi.net, which are mentioned above; Radyotevhid.net, which hosts the Internet radio station Radyo Tevhid (“Monotheism Radio”); Tevhidsiparis.com or Tevhid Siparis (“Monotheism Order”), which is an online bookstore offering hundreds of books as well as print copies of Tevhid magazine for sale; and a fifth website, Ebuhanzala.kim, describing Bayancuk’s life and trial. Four of these five websites are hosted in Michigan, U.S., while the fifth, Tevhidsiparis.com, is hosted in Turkey.
The organization has at least 13 Twitter accounts, three Facebook pages, five Telegram channels, three YouTube channels, two Instagram accounts, two WhatsApp numbers, four mobile apps, a Google Plus account, and an account on the Denmark-based digital publishing platform Issuu.
In total these platforms have approximately 113,000 followers, to whom they distribute Bayancuk’s video lectures and issues of Tevhid magazine in PDF, as well as graphics and other content. Many of these accounts and pages include the Tevhid Organization’s original material translated into other languages.
The organization also has nine physical locations in five cities in Turkey, of which eight hold weekly meetings. On October 4, 2018, Turkish counter-terror police raided the Tevhid Organization’s Ankara office.
Tevhiddersleri.tv, the homepage of “Tevhid Dersleri (Monotheism Lessons),” hosts at least 2,252 videos, almost all of which are lectures, commentary, interviews, and Q&A by Bayancuk, and most of which are about 40 minutes long, though they range from two minutes to well over an hour. There are also videos in Turkish on learning Arabic, street interviews, and a nasheed (“Islamic song”).
The videos cover many subjects from a Salafi-jihadi standpoint, and are divided into categories, including: “Creed Lessons,” “Commentary Lessons,” “Islamic Jurisprudence Lessons,” “Hadith Commentary,” “Moral Lessons,” and “Method Lessons.” The page has an “Other Languages” section that includes pages for content in the English, Albanian, Georgian, Russian, German, French, Dutch, Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, and Uzbek languages, though some of these pages are empty.
The homepage of the website shows a picture of Bayancuk and, as of this writing, reads: “Teacher Ebu Hanzala has been imprisoned for 501 days in his last arrest and 2,081 days in total.” This image is updated each day on the organization’s websites and is shared on its many social media accounts.
Tevhidsiparis.com, the homepage of Tevhid Sipariş (“Monotheism Order”), offers 334 books and print copies of 15 issues of Tevhid magazine for sale. The website gives the WhatsApp number 05513865301. This number may require the Turkish country code +90.
The Tevhid Dersleri Twitter account @Tevhid_Dersleri has 8,657 followers and was opened in July 2015. The pinned tweet on the account from June 27, 2018, is about Bayancuk’s recent sentencing. The account regularly posts videos of Bayancuk, graphics with his photo and quotes, and updates on his incarceration and trial.
There are Twitter accounts with the same format as Tevhid Dersleri account in English with 225 followers, in French with 236 followers, in German with 90 followers, and in Arabic with 478 followers.
The Tevhidi Gündem (“Monotheistic Agenda”) Twitter account @Tevhidi_Gundem was opened July 2015 and has 9,264 followers. Tevhidigundem.biz and Tevhidigundem.org appear to have been other websites belonging to the organization that have been shut down.
Tevhidi Gundem’s Instagram, Telegram, and Facebook, accounts, to which the Twitter account links, remain active. The link on the Twitter account to Tevhidi Gundem’s YouTube channel is broken. The pinned tweet on the account from July 7, 2018, is a broken link to the full text of Bayancuk’s “court speech.”
Bayancuk’s personal Twitter account @EbuHanzalaHoca3 was opened in May 2012 and has 4,243 followers. The location given on the account is Silivri 9 No’lu Kapalı Cezaevi (“Silivri Closed Prison No. 9”), which is in a prison complex located outside of Istanbul, Turkey.
There are Twitter accounts with the same format as Bayancuk’s personal account in English with 1,436 followers, in German with 1,411 followers, and in Arabic with 1,051 followers. The German Twitter account links to a German Facebook page and the Arabic Twitter account links to an Arabic Facebook page. Both Facebook pages appear to have been shut down.
The Radyo Tevhid Twitter account @radyotevhidnet has 553 followers, was opened in November 2017, and links to the organization’s Radyo Tevhid website, to a Facebook page that has been shut down, and to a Telegram channel that has 54 members.
The pinned tweet on the account from February 6, 2018, shows a photo of Bayancuk in handcuffs and gives a now outdated update on his trial. It also frequently retweets posts from Bayancuk’s personal Twitter account.
The Tevhid Dersleri (“Monotheism Lessons”) Facebook page had 1,440 “likes.” This page appears to have been shut down in early October 2018.
Spreading ideology through books:
The website has books for sale, among them The Method Of The People Of The Sunnah And The Fundamentals Of Jihad, and Scenes From The Jihad Of The Prophet’s Companions. These books, which are 324 and 284 pages respectively, can be downloaded in PDF or bought.
The links to buy the books go to a page on Tevhiddergisi.net, where the organization hosts most of its articles as well as its monthly magazine Tevhid. Tevhiddersleri.tv has recommended reading lists, 12 books by Bayancuk, and seven books by other authors available to buy or download.
After his father’s 2005 arrest, he spent 3 years in Egypt before returning to Turkey in 2008. Halis was later arrested for alleged involvement in the 2008 Istanbul bombings before being released on 15 May 2009 due to lack of evidence.
He was again arrested in 2011 along with fifty others who were suspected of planning a bombing. He was released on 24 January 2013 after prosecutors again failed to convict him due to lack of evidence.
He was arrested for a third time in Van Province on 14 January 2014 and police believed they had enough evidence to convict him, but due to the 2013 corruption scandal in Turkey the police officers and prosecutors working on his case were fired and he was released on 9 November 2014.
On 18 July 2015 he addressed a congregation of over one thousand Islamic State supporters and called for jihad. On 24 July 2015, he was arrested by police and described as the leader of the Islamic State in Turkey and involvement in multiple bombings in Turkey. After his fourth court hearing however, he was released alongside 95 of the other suspects on 24 March 2016.
On 8 March 2017 he was arrested again and accused of threatening the governor of Ankara. As of November 2017, he is in detention, accused of teaching at a pro-Islamic State madrassa in Ankara.
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