Turkish Mafia kingpin Alaattin Çakıcı has lent his personal support to Melih Bulu, the rector of Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University, urging him to stand firm against student protests calling for his resignation.
In an open letter published on his Twitter account, Çakıcı called on Bulu to remain in his post, blaming the protests on opposition groups including the pro-Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (HDP), the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and a far-left militant group.
“If you resign, you will pave the way for these terrorist activists,” Çakıcı said in the two-page handwritten letter.
Thousands of students, academics and graduates of Boğaziçi, Turkey’s top higher education institution, and other major universities have been protesting Bulu’s appointment by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in early January. Bulu is a former senior official of Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP). The protests have prompted a heavy police response and the detention of hundreds of people, many of whom have claimed mistreatment and torture.
Çakıcı, released from prison in April last year, was a key figure in the so-called Susurluk scandal of the mid-1990s, which exposed the alleged use of Mafia gangs by state officials including top politicians to commit crimes. Çakıcı rose to prominence as a crime boss in the 1980s and was indicted in 1995 for organising a contract killing of his wife. He later fled abroad.
The Mafia in Turkey has traditional ties to Turkish ultranationalism, fighting alongside the far-right “grey wolves” in street battles against leftist and communist activists in the late 1970s. Ensuing political instability ended in a military coup in 1980.
In November, Çakıcı threatened Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on social media. Kılıçdaroğlu filed a criminal complaint, which resulted in an indictment by an Ankara prosecutor last week.
The Mafia’s alleged role in politics has re-emerged as a matter of public debate after Erdoğan formed a political alliance in February 2018 with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), known for its alleged historical ties to criminal underworld figures. Mafia bosses such as Çakıcı and Sedat Peker have become more visible in public life, traveling in convoys around Istanbul and the capital Ankara.
In 2018, Peker was acquitted by a Turkish court of charges of threatening 1,128 academics and intellectuals who signed a petition calling for a peaceful settlement to Turkey’s Kurdish problem.