Big business between Erdogan and Trump behind the Hagia Sophia affair

Ω Giorgos Adalis
Big business between Erdogan and Trump behind the Hagia Sophia affair, Giorgos Adalis

In January 2018, Yeni Şafak newspaper published articles with many photos describing the Turkish government's efforts to preserve and restore Christian icons and frescoes found in Hagia Sophia and has since maintained a special photo gallery on its site.

At the same time, during the same period, a well-known Turkish arms manufacturing company was starting talks with similar US companies in order to find a way to enter the New York Stock Exchange. But what might Hagia Sophia have to do with a Turkish newspaper and a Turkish company that manufactures weapons and is trying to to be listed on NASDAQ? How can all this be related?

Yeni Şafak ("New Dawn") is known to be the Erdogan's mouthpiece as well as the long arm of the Justice and Development Party. From the publisher Ibrahim Karagül down to the cleaning staff, everyone is an outspoken supporter of Erdogan.

Erdogan never forgot how and to what extent Trump punished Turkey with financial sanctions over the case of Pastor Branson, who was released in October 2018. A few months after the Branson case ended, Erdogan was showing the West that he was restoring Christian icons. Then, all of a sudden, while Greece was celebrating the anniversary of the Revolution of 1821, Erdogan unleashed a thunderbolt, declaring: "For years our nation has been waiting to see Hagia Sophia become a mosque." Unfortunately, in Greece this news was featured only on sites of religious content.

Erdogan may have gone so far as to demand money even from Christian institutions for the restoration of Christian icons, but he was in fact preparing a black operation to convert not only Hagia Sophia, but all Christian churches in Turkey into mosques. He waited for his move to peak during the US election campaign, in order to blackmail Trump and the Christians who vote for him. His blackmail against Trump was not only political, but was, to a large extent, financial retaliation for the Branson case!

Business trip

In 2019, a trip of Turkish Economy Minister and Erdogan's son-in-law to the US, Berat Albayrak, seems to have been aimed at formalizing a "marriage" between a Turkish company and a US company. Before the close of 2019, the stock market was talking about a strange cooperative of American and Turkish Islamists who wanted to include a joint venture on the NASDAQ index. It was the Enerkon Company that operates in the US defense industry and the Turkish arms company Albayraklar.

However, after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the procedures froze and Yeni Şafak started raising the issue of Hagia Sophia with full pages and in fact with great intensity. In the second week of March, the Anadolu Ajansi news agency announced that an agreement had finally been reached between Enkon and Albayraklar. The Turkish company transferred 20% of its shares to the American firm and a new corporate scheme was created under the name WATTOZZ. 51% of Wattozz belongs to the American side (Enerkon) and 49% to the Turkish side (Albayraklar).

According to the business plan of the new company, it would proceed to the listing on the New York Stock Exchange, on the NASDAQ index, in order to take advantage of some innovative weapons systems developed by the Turkish side, Albayraklar. There are many systems and the Turkish company has patents worth many billions. There are three projects that are more well-known and commercially promising:

  • A particularly high voltage (taser) electrical discharge pistol which, however, does not work with the familiar cables we see in the films used by police in arrests. But it works without wires and the electrical discharge is transmitted without wires making it much more efficient and easier to use. The model is called the T61 and the Turks value it at more than $ 1 billion in patent value. They believe that if it is bought by the US Police, the profits will skyrocket. Especially for the T61 pistol, the business plan of the new company, states that four factories will be built. Two in the US and two in Turkey where the production lines will be located.
  • Another project is a new advanced UCAV, which has the ability to fire along three-dimensions (3 axis fire) with a shooting system and software that the Turks praise.
  • An attack submarine drone.

The US rocks the boat
In early April, NASDAQ issued a statement formalizing what the Anadolu agency had revealed the month before. In fact, it even announces the code that the newly established company Wattozz would use on the board, which will be traded as "WTTZ".

Since then, the fate of this partnership is unknown and there are no developments. It seems that no one liked the idea of an Islamic company trading on the American Stock Exchange. This is onerous for both conservative Christians of the US Republican Party and Democrats. Quite simply because everyone understood that Erdogan wanted to gain know-how in mass production, expertise for factories whose production lines will be very fast.

And somewhere there, it seemed that Erdogan could not catch the Americans off guard who at the time had panicked with the coronavirus. Even the Nasdaq announcement twice ostentatiously stated that the listing would be achieved "if or when regulatory approvals are obtained from the Federal Authorities". The federal authorities are dragging their feet and this angers the Turks.

When Erdogan does business, he never forgets to insult the religious sentiment of the Greeks. Thus, he used for the second time in a row the celebration of March 25 to provoke Greeks. This time, it was in 2020 when he organized the recording of Qur'anic psalms in the Hagia Sophia by Imam Oder Soi and Muezzin Ahmet Toraman.

Yeni Şafak back at work

Doing a search in the Yeni Safak archive, we easily ascertained that immediately after this provocation, the tension in the articles on the issue of Hagia Sophia began. First with comments and then with articles in all the available media. In early June, Karagiul himself undertook to sign fiery articles on the Hagia Sophia and the need to turn it into a mosque.

The picture is as follows: Yeni Şafak, therefore, belongs to the journalistic group Albayrak Medya and Karagül is an employee of the Albayrak family who has full control of the newspaper and the publishing group. Yeni Şafak is chaired by Ahmet Albayrak and CEO is Mustafa Albayrak. Albayrak Medya, however, is wholly owned by a company founded in 1952 called Albayrak Group.

The parent group, in addition to newspapers and media, is engaged in a number of activities. From port exploitation to sugar industries. In addition, it manufactures tractors and vehicles. And one of its main activities is the construction of military vehicles, as well as weapons systems for the Turkish army. See here for the company's full activity full activities.

Conservatives in the US are reacting

Yeni Şafak, then, is not just a newspaper, but the tip of the iceberg of a group that sells and buys everything in Turkey and is backed by the Turkish army. The same group is wholly owned by a subsidiary, Albayraklar Savunma (Albayraklar Defense). This is exactly the company that "partnered" with the American Enerkon and created Wattozz. Wattozz in turn is the one who applied for listing on NASDAQ. In Wattozz, the Turkish Albayraklar holds 49%.

The Turks believe that the long delays in the project are not due to the coronavirus but to the reactions of conservative Christians in the US, who do not want the introduction of an Islamic defense industry in the heart of the American stock market. Because it will open the door for Islamists to acquire cutting-edge American technology. After all, Erdogan and the Albayrak family are not so interested in producing e.g. the T61 pistol so much, as to acquire know-how in mass production factories of defense products.

They could have already built their own factories in Turkey or elsewhere. But production capacity would be at the known low levels. Strategically, Turkey has been looking for a decade for know-how that will allow it to increase its production levels to the same level as China. If something like that happens, it will boost not only the value of Albayrak but also the Turkish defense industry itself.

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