“I abducted the mass murderer Colonel Harmoush and turned him over to Syria”
Currently on the run from Turkish prison system, former officer Önder Sığırcıkoğlu asserts he wasn’t out for money: “I took action to save my identity, my honor, and my conscience.”
Lt Col Hussein al-Harmoush was the most senior defector from the Syrian Arab Army early in the Syria conflict. He fled to Turkey in June 2011 where he proceeded to set up a so-called Free Officers Movement to overthrow the Syrian government. His ambitions were short-lived. He disappeared from Hatay Altınözü camp in 29 August together with Mustafa Kassoum, a gym instructor who had been passing himself off as an Army Major. Two weeks later Harmoush was on Syrian TV, confessing to his crimes and to Turkey’s complicity.
After a frenzied investigation Turkish security rounded up several people, and seven individuals were tried for the ‘crime’ of returning Harmoush to Syria. The seniormost among them, Önder Sığırcıkoğlu, a 19 year veteran of Turkey’s Intelligence Agency MIT, was handed a 20 year sentence. After 32 months incarceration at Osmaniye prison, Sığırcıkoğlu made his escape while being transferred to another facility and was able to leave Turkey clandestinely. The following is Part 1 of his revelations to Ömer Ödemiş for leading Turkish news site OdaTV.
Önder Sığırcıkoğlu has harsh words for Turkey’s Syria policy. He had been assigned by MIT early on to screen arrivals during the initial refugee onslaught:
“I interviewed thousands in those early days. The first group of refugees consisted of about 250 who crossed the border to Turkey’s Altınözü. Their Syrian handlers were law student Seri Hammodi and taxidriver Abdusselam Sadiq. These two were in constant contact with international media, Al Jazeera and others, propagandizing and agitating that the refugees had been forced to flee Syria because of violent oppression. The tales they told were fabrications, but they were campaigning to sway public opinion and secure funding from Turkey, the U.N., Gulf countries and international institutions.”
138 KILLED AFTER SURRENDERING TO HARMOUSH
Sığırcıkoğlu points out that the earliest arrivals came equipped with Thuraya satellite phones and with laptops. His first encounter with Harmoush wasn’t long afterwards:
“In 10 or 11 June 2011 we received an MIT communique noting the arrival of a dissident Syrian Lt.Colonel in the camp. We were tasked with drawing up a report on his involvement in military operations. Upon inquiry I identified the Lt.Colonel in question to be Hussein al-Harmoush, the leader of the armed opposition in Jisr al-Shughour and instigator of the clashes there. He disclosed in the interview that he was a fundamentalist sunni, a Russia-trained explosives specialist last assigned to the engineering department of the 11th army division in Homs. Harmoush had been in constant conflict with his superiors over his strict Islamism and had played a leading part in organizing the armed opposition in Jisr al-Shughour. He recounted how they neutralized Syrian security personnel and captured Jisr al-Shughour’s post office, and how they set off an explosive device of Harmoush’s making at the premises of the military unit. Survivors of the explosion were forced to surrender to the forces of Harmoush who, in his own account, had 138 of them summarily executed.”
MASS MURDERERS GLORIFIED
As Harmoush described in gory detail how he had ordered the notorious massacre that saw the River Orontes run red with the blood of untold victims, Sığırcıkoğlu went cold with horror and disgust:
“I was appalled, and felt lost. The agency I worked for was coddling and glorifying these mass murderers. We were consorting with bloodthirsty thugs raising havoc in a friendly neighboring country. We were housing and sheltering them, handing them safe phones, and helping their forays in and out of Syria.
Sığırcıkoğlu put in request after request for a transfer elsewhere. But his command of Arabic language and his familiarity with the region was too valuable to his superiors. His requests were denied.
NOT FOR MONEY
In two more years Sığırcıkoğlu would have made it to senior rank in the agency. But his mind was made up. “I planned out the abduction of Colonel Hussain Harmoush, and asked for help from a few trusted contacts. Once they agreed, I put Harmoush in my car and handed him to friends who delivered him to Syria. The murderer had to stand trial in his home country and answer for the hundreds of innocents he massacred. I wasn’t out for money. To smear my name they are spreading rumors that I was paid $100.000 for this action. In fact I was receiving nearly TL 7000 monthly salary at the time. I owned a house, a car; I had a good life. I’d never ruin all that for just $100.000. Besides, there’s no truth to the claim that Syrian government had put out a reward for Harmoush. Nothing of the sort. I took action to save my identity, my honor and my conscience. I acted out of my convictions against AKP’s policies. I feel no remorse. Turkish government’s policies constitute a betrayal of the Syrian people and I stood up against it. Supporting murderers against a country that had been a historical friend was not my lawful duty.”
THOUSANDS OF JIHADIS SET UPON SYRIA
As the campaign against Syria expanded, planes brought in thousands of murderers and jihadis to Hatay from where they were dispatched over Yayladağı and Reyhanlı to Syria to commit further massacres, says Sığırcıkoğlu: “It was a daily routine. Thousands were brought to Turkey illegally, without passports, from undisclosed points of origin; and they were helped across the border into Syria. Some of it I witnessed, some I was directly involved in. An agency charged with upholding security was working to undermine security in another country. I had lost all faith in my job. Shiploads of weapons arrived at Iskenderun port, were loaded in containers and transported by trucks to Reyhanlı to be slipped into Syria. I didn’t want to be a part of it. So I took a stance regardless of personal consequences.”
“CHRISTIANS TO BEIRUT, ALAWITES TO THE GRAVE”
Sığırcıkoğlu’s Arabic accent hinted at his Alevi origins, and that immediately put Harmoush’s hackles up. “Harmoush and his men were Sunnis and very sectarian about it,” says the former agent. “When I called them in for an interview, they declared they wouldn’t be ordered around by an Alevi. Carrying out my duty was a constant struggle. They frequently put up the inflammatory chant ‘Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave,’ and attempted provocation saying ‘keep Alevi doctors and nurses away, they will only mistreat us.’ These men were trying to carry their sectarian bigotry over into Turkey. I requested to be transferred from Hatay with a report that explained all these problems, but I was turned away.”
TRAITORS TO BE REVEALED
Sığırcıkoğlu is firm in his stance against AKP’s Syria policy. Determined to name the informers and the secret witnesses who testified against him, he is also prepared to expose in detail where and how jihadi murderers are given passage into Syria, how the weapons are transported, and what instructions he was given by his superiors pertaining to these dark operations.
Interview conducted by Oda TV; Translation: @Alamet0