Ibrahim Tatlises fights for his life

15/03/2011

Attention focuses on possible organised crime involvement after a weekend attack on one of Turkey's most popular singers.

By Alakbar Raufoglu for Southeast European Times -- 15/03/11

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Popular Turkish singer Ibrahim Tatlises is in a critical condition. [Reuters]

Top entertainer Ibrahim Tatlises was fighting for his life Monday (March 14th) after being shot in the head at the weekend by an unidentified gunman. Tatlises' assistant, Buket Cakici, who was accompanying him, was shot in the shoulder.

The 59-year-old singer was leaving the Beyaz TV Channel studio building in Maslak Nurol Plaza after performing in his music show when five men in a black car opened fire.

"Eleven shots were fired," Mehmet Guclu, Tatlises' long-time manager and close friend, told SETimes. "Two bullets hit Tatlises, and another two hit his assistant."

"Ibo's life is still in danger," he added.

Nicknamed "Emperor" and "Ibo", Tatlises has more than 30 albums to his credit, and his sales have reportedly surpassed 100 million records. He is also a producer, movie director, songwriter and businessman, and has been involved in construction projects in northern Iraq.

Turkish leaders expressed their shock and concern. President Abdullah Gul called on officials "to do everything necessary" to find the gunmen, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement urging doctors to do whatever they can to save the singer's life.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Turkish media have speculated about possible culprits and motives.

Some newspapers focused on last week's threats against Kurdish intellectuals, as well as the PKK's recent declaration that it was ending its unilateral ceasefire. However, the terrorist group has not issued a statement so far about the Tatlises shooting. Meanwhile, the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party condemned the attack.

"Tatlises has strong -- even fanatical -- following in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey, particularly amongst young Kurdish men," Gareth Jenkins, a writer and analyst based in Istanbul, told SETimes.

Many, he said, are blaming the incident on a business dispute, "perhaps related to the massive construction projects that Tatlises has recently launched in northern Iraq".

Guclu said he also suspects the shooting is connected to Tatlises' business interests in Iraqi Kurdistan, where the singer has been involved in a housing project with Iraqi partners.

"At least 70% of signs are pointing in that direction," he said.

Organised crime involvement has not been ruled out. Twenty years ago Tatlises was shot in the leg, a trademark mafia warning, Jenkins said, after allegedly failing to make an album for a company owned by an organised crime group.

"In recent days, Ibo was talking about threats against him," Guclu added, saying the singer had appealed to police about threatening phone calls that he received. "We are all waiting for the investigation results. Everything will be clear when Ibrahim comes back."

Local security analysts have long raised concerns over mafia activities in Turkey, including extortion. Wealthy individuals, businessmen, entertainers and people in positions of authority regularly find themselves the target of rackets and even assassination attempts.

In January, for example, Anatolian businessman Mehmet Saryoglu – a major player in the wholesale industry – was the victim of an attack, allegedly by mafia representatives who demanded money from him.

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Kurdish and Turkish gangs are known to control much of the flow of heroin and other illegal substances into Europe from production centres in Asia. They are also suspected of involvement in a wide spectrum of other activities, including money laundering and weapons trafficking, and may play a pivotal role in supplying arms to the PKK.

Erol Tuncer, Turkish political analyst and the head of the Ankara-based Policy Research Foundation, believes that the attack on Tatlises was "totally apolitical".

"People in Istanbul even barely knew that he was going to run for parliament in the June elections," he says.

Kemal Unsur, 71, a fan of the singer, called on the perpetrators to be found and punished. "Ibo is our very great musician, loved by both the Turks and the Kurds," he said.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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