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There’s a mob boss on YouTube, and Turkey is glued

“You were my return ticket. You were the joker I put all my bets on.”A mafia boss, on YouTube, and millions upon millions of views.That is Sedat Peker, and if you haven’t heard of him before, then you probably don’t live in Turkey.Because his recent video confessions like these – uncorroborated tales of murder and corruption – are shaking that country’s politics, consuming its news channels, and being watched by many, many people.”Telling the world’s most disgusting lies, putting them at the top of political agenda and making people watch these videos is an actual (foreign) operation. I say this once again.”That’s Turkey’s interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, on Haberturk – national television. He’s been Peker’s main target, and has rejected the mob leader’s many accusations against him. More on that later.So where did Peker come from?Sedat Peker rose to prominence in the 1990s in the Turkish underworld and was sentenced to 14 years in prison back in 2007, convicted of forming and leading a criminal gang, among other things.He now says he lives in Dubai, although Reuters couldn’t verify that. Then, in April this year, Turkish police made a series of raids targeting him and his alleged associates. That’s his wife there, in the white. Police here, pulling a gun hidden under a tree on one property.It was the following month that he started making the videos. He has various props: a white board, a book about Bob Dylan. But the stories are grim. In one, for example, he claims that he ordered his brother to kill a Turkish Cypriot politician – at the request of a former top official – in the 1990s. The brother wasn’t able to carry out the assassination, he says, although the politician was gunned down later on.The brother was arrested shortly after the video aired.Gokcer Tahincioglu is an investigative journalist in Turkey.”Although this is a tape recording, there is a man who speaks continuously about interesting stuff and it feels like a live report from inside the gang. Of course, he would be listened to. He should be listened to. The system that has been built by the state has been based on confessors and secret witnesses. This time, there is a confessor who is not anonymous and who wants to speak of his own accord. Why shouldn’t he be heard? He must be heard.”And he is being heard, although his allegations have not been proven. Soylu, the interior minister, has filed a legal claim against Peker for slander. Peker says Soylu once warned him under the table about a looming police crackdown. Peker also says Soylu gave him extended police protection after he left jail.Soylu says it’s all lies, a plot against the country.JOURNALIST: “Please, these videos are viewed by millions…”SOYLU: “Please, I beg you…”SOYLU: “Millions of people are also watching child pornography. For God’s sake, please don’t do this.” PEKER: “You did not apologize to me. You wanted to insult and humiliate me even more. So, I dialed it up a notch and now, it spread around the globe. At the end of this story, this will get bigger and we will rock the world.” PRESIDENT ERDOGAN: “We are chasing members of criminal gangs no matter where in the world they run to.”President Tayyip Erdogan himself recently defended Soylu at this event, and says the government will investigate the claims. Opposition political parties have been seizing on the moment, demanding that the interior minister resign.What are everyday Turks – those millions of views – saying about all this? It’s mixed. Can Gumusbas, here, works in marketing in the capital Ankara. He agrees an investigation is needed.”If they don’t do it, our reputation is being tarnished every day. If nothing is done, the idea of Turkey being a democratic state of law will become nonsensical, I guess.”Elsewhere in Istanbul we spoke to Alara, a PR specialist. She was clear in telling us that she questions whether Peker’s stories are true. But, she says, there are other reasons for watching.”I think it became popular because it is one of the most absurd and interesting things to have happened in Turkey in a very long time. We have a media that is very much linked to the state and it is really interesting that it reflects the times that we are in because you have a mafia boss who is live streaming or generally has his own channel and he can talk about various things, his own topics without any filters.”