Viral photo does not show Erdogan giving orders to Turkish Army chief

Image accompanied by a message highlighting the power of democracy over military

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Claim: A viral photo shows Turkey’s Army Chief General taking orders from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Social media users in Pakistan are sharing the image with captions highlighting civilian supremacy over the military in Turkey and implicitly drawing a comparison with the political climate in Pakistan.

Fact: The photo, in fact, shows Turkish Land Forces Commander General Musa Avsever, not the Turkish Army Chief General Yasar Guler. The image is from August 2021, when Asvever replaced General Umit Dundar as the new commander of the Turkish Land Forces in a routine shuffle.

Fact or Fiction?

On 25th June 2022, Facebook user and public figure ‘Dr. Abdullah Khan’ posted an image showing Erdogan with Asvever. The photo was shared with the following caption:

“ترکی کا آرمی چیف جرنل موسی صدر طیب اردگان سے نیا حکم نامہ لیتے ہوۓ، یاد رہے ترکی کی عوام صرف ایک رات کے’ لیۓ جاگی تھی اور آج تک سکون سے سورہی ہے۔ [Turkey’s Army Chief, General Musa taking new commandments from President Tayyap Erdogan. Let it be remembered that the public of Turkey only rose up for one night and has been sleeping peacefully ever since.]”

The claim was picked up by multiple pages and accounts on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. It was shared here, here, and here.

Soch Fact Check conducted a Google Reverse Image Search and found that the photo is from August 2021. It was shared as early as 4 August 2021 on Hurriet Daily News with the headline, “Turkey replaces land forces commander in routine reshuffle”. Other Turkish media outlets also reported on the reshuffle.

The senior-most position in the Turkish Armed forces is that of the Chief of the General Staff, currently held by Yasar Guler. The post in question is misleading as it wrongly identified Asever as the Army Chief. It is also misleading as it implies that the Land Forces Commander was taking orders from the President, when he was, in fact, just signing off on his reassignment.

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the three-month period leading up to 6 July using the search term, “عوام ترکی طیب اردگان حکم نامہ چیف”.

The results showed 16,360 interactions across 136 posts. The image was also shared here on 1st July 2022 with the caption, “نیوٹرل ہر بار بچ کر نکل جاتے تھے ‏لیکن اس بار عمران خان نے ایسا ہاتھ رکھا کے چس ہی آگئی۔ [The neutrals used to escape every time, but this time Imran Khan put such an satisfactory stop to it.]”

A CrowdTangle analysis for the above caption revealed a further 1,071 interactions across 8 posts. The analysis revealed that the image went viral earlier between 1-7 May 2022. It was shared here and here, and once again surfaced on 25 June. There is also a similar post that dates back to August 2021; however, that post did not gain the same degree of traction until the claim resurfaced between May-July 2022.

Conclusion: The viral image does not show the Turkish Army Chief taking orders from Erdogan. The image is from August 2021 and shows Erdogan standing by General Musa Avsever as the latter takes on the role of commander of the Turkish Land Forces in a routine reshuffle.

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