'State-criminal relations in Turkey go back to Ottoman era'

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Organized crime and narcotics smuggling in Turkey are analogous to the role of oil in countries like Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, Professor Ryan Gingeras tells the Hürriyet Daily News, discussing his new book ?Heroin, Organized Crime, and the Making of Modern Turkey?

A new book by Naval Postgraduate School Assistant Professor Ryan Gingeras pulls back the curtain on the smugglers, politicians, policemen, thugs, spies, diplomats, and hitmen in Turkey?s murky world of organized crime and narcotics dealing.

Gingeras boldly suggests that organized crime is central to the development of the modern Turkish state, analogous to the importance of oil in states like Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan. While that claim might be too much, ?Heroin, Organized Crime, and the Making of Modern Turkey? (reviewed here) still makes for a fascinating read on an under-examined subject. The Hürriyet Daily News spoke to Gingeras about some of the most salient issues explored in the book, and the delicate question of state-criminal relations in today?s Turkey.

You say in the book that organized crime has links with the state going back to the late Ottoman period. Could you explain?

When you look at the history of any country, particularly before the modern era, you typically see elements of states and governments cooperating with or employing groups that we would otherwise call criminals. The things that you see in the late Ottoman era - employing bandits to be policemen, or employing pirates to be admirals and sailors, for example - are very common in a lot of places. It?s often easier for governments to basically subcontract security to those who are its biggest offenders. In most countries around the world, around the year 1800, many of the...

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