Islamist conspiracy theorist Dilipak takes on vaccines, post-pandemic world order

Abdurrahman Dilipak is one of the loudest and most imaginative pro-government Islamist Turkish columnists. He works for Yeni Akit, a right-wing, Antisemitic and Islamist newspaper, and had already made name for himself with eyebrow-raising conspiracy theories before he jumped on the coronavirus conspiracy bandwagon. 

In January, the 72-year-old anti-vaxxer, along with an official from aid organisation the Santa Claus Association, went to court to try to stop the government's vaccination drive.

For some reason, this unlikely duo have gone into business together, founding a Covid-19 disinformation site aimed at promoting the idea that evil elites like Bill Gates want to microchip people under the cover of providing immunity against the deadly virus.

Dilipak also thinks that Cannabis should be legalised as he believes it can help protect against Covid-19, and has in the past described the hemp plant as “a blessing, divine gift and treat from God”.

You might find these different positions somewhat contradictory, but they seem to all stem from a set of beliefs which has become quite influential inside President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

As Ahval reported last October, Turkish First Lady Emine Erdoğan has been a passionate advocate of herbal and organic food products. She has championed the “Ancestral Seed” (“Ata Tohum”) project, thought to be inspired by Austrian-trained biochemist Ibrahim Adnan Saraçoğlu. The thinking behind this project is that modern seeds - which are genetically modified to increase their yields - are bad, and so older seeds should be collected and used to produce more natural crops.

Saraçoğlu is one of many advisors to President Erdoğan and has attended the launch of the Ata Tohum project, where he complained that Westerners had plundered Anatolia’s botanical wealth, Ahval reported in October.

In a recent article entitled “Do not underestimate the seed!” Dilipak elaborates on this paranoid fear that Western companies are trying to take over the world, saying that they are stealing seeds from Muslim countries, in a bid for “a real apocalypse for humanity”.

“Those who plan to take over the world are building underground cities. They produce robots to kill people, they set up seed stores, they talk about "global reset". Their purpose is no longer money, they seem to be likening themselves to mythological gods. It is as if they pretend to be God and Lord,” Dilipak rants.

Let us now turn to, the website Dilipak has been promoting and seems to have founded. The articles and the look of the site’s homepage strongly bring to mind the meme of Charlie from U.S. sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia trying to explain a conspiracy theory.

In one of the rambling articles on the site, Dilipak somehow suggests that the T in LGBT is something connected to the concept of transhumanism, and that “as transhumanism approaches the ‘end of days’ in this sense, it is preparing to play its last great game, which we call the ‘end times’ and some call the ‘end of history’.” 

Dilipak seems to think that both the Covid-19 pandemic and the whole LGBT movement are conspiracies to reduce the global population.

“Maybe tomorrow they will present the vaccine for corona as a medicine, and they will add something sterilizing to it. And you know how the virus can spread on money, so that's good for Bitcoin,” he says.

It’s so rambling, so paranoid, and suggests such a fearful and confused worldview that you are not sure whether to laugh or to pity the man.

I’m not sure there’s much point trying to make sense of any of these bizarre fantasies. What is surprising is that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube tolerate this kind of dangerous, racist, conspiracist content on their platforms, where Dilipak continues to promote his misinformation. Perhaps, as in the case of the QAnon conspiracy cult, it will take serious real world consequences for these big tech companies to remove content which generates significant interactions and thus data and profits for them. 

The Yeni Akit columnist apparently used to be a reasonably respected theologian before he developed what we might call “poster’s brain”. Like many people, he seems unable to cope with the dopamine rush brought on by social media engagement, which has encouraged him to say ever stranger things in order to get attention.

His promotion by the pro-AKP press, even as the Turkish government is starting its vaccine programme, is likely to discourage uptake of the vaccine, and prolong Turkey’s economic woes as a result. Yet because being a vocal supporter of the president is the main qualification for having a successful media career in Turkey, Dilipak is unlikely to suffer any consequences for his conspiracy theories. The press will go on promoting him, thereby hampering the government’s efforts to vaccinate people. 

The Turkish pro-government media is already awash with conspiracy theories, antisemitism and propaganda. It is hard for such a biased, state-controlled media to convincingly stop conspiracy theories like those engaged in by Dilipak, because they are guilty of similar things. 

This is yet another case where a lack of a free press will contribute to worse economic and health outcomes for Turkey in general. The casualties of authoritarianism are not just its political prisoners, but those who it forces to live in fear and ignorance.