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In the rather religiously inclined AKP government, I'm curious how credible this resignation reason is:

SADAT, officially the SADAT International Defense Consultancy, describes itself on its website as "the first and the only company in Turkey that internationally provides consultancy and military training services at the international defense and interior security sector."

It was founded by Adnan Tanrıverdi and has been a shady organization due to numerous reports on it training jihadists in Syria and Libya.

The group was also allegedly active in the thwarting of the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt by taking up arms and fighting with putschists on the streets. Tanrıverdi was appointed as Erdoğan's advisor shortly after, but was forced to resign last year [2020] after saying that the Mahdi - a "redeemer" in Islam who is to descend on earth and rule on judgement day - will return.

I'm aware that Erdogan himself was tried decades ago for reciting some religious-nationalist poem. But Turkey has changed a lot under his leadership, including a boom of religious education, Erdoğan inaugurating mosques etc. So, how commonly enforced are those laws [if they are still on the books] that prohibit[ed] such religious expressions by officials?

Alternatively, if I'm missing some other cultural/political subtlety here, why is saying that [the] "Mahdi will return" plausibly related to a Turkish official's reason for resignation? (Does it sound too much like something some proscribed group in Turkey would say, like ISIS or even the Gulenists? A bit more googling suggests that that might be something a Shia would say, so that might be a reason, but I'd like some confirmation that such a statement would be politically unwise in Turkey for that [precise] reason.)

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  • Should his statement be understood as, the Mahdi will at some point in time return, which at least in Twelver Shia Islam is a perfectly normal statement, or that the return of the Mahdi is imminent? If the latter, it doesn't seem so strange. I could easily imagine a minister in a Christian country being fired for saying that the Second Coming is imminent.
    – H Huang
    Feb 12, 2023 at 21:01

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Yes, Tanrıverdi resigned after saying those words, but not because he said them. Rather, he had to resign because of how they were picked up by opposition press.

SADAT International Defense Consultancy was founded in 2012 by a group of pro-Erdogan ex-military. It officially provides military and interior training, defense consultancy, and ordnance procurement to Islamic countries. Less officially, it also was involved in multiple conflicts involving Islamic countries as a mercenary provider, as well as participating in suppression of 2016 anti-Erdogan putsch; after that particular action, Tanrıverdi received a (minor) official position demonstrating his closeness to the president. As such, the company was accused multiple times (example) of being a Turkish analogue of Iran's Guards of Islamic Revolution - a pro-regime paramilitary organisation with a Jihadist lean. The fact that Adnan Tanrıverdi is a very outspoken about his Pan-Islamist views only cements this image further.

Thus, the company and its leaders are an easy target for opposition. And when in December 2019 Adnan Tanrıverdi made an ill-worded statement in public Turkish political opposition was all over it painting him an absolute religious nut who expects a second coming of the Prophet to happen soon. Tanrıverdi himself issued this press-release shortly after the incident, claiming his words were misinterpreted, but the damage to his reputation was already done.

So the most probable cause of his dismissal was Erdogan trying to distance himself from reputational damage. It seems that Tanrıverdi retained his leadership in the company, and remains active in Turkish politics, so it does not seem that the incident had much long-term consequences for him, save for his official position.

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