Date posted: October 28, 2014
SEVGİ AKARÇEŞME / ISTANBUL
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government’s efforts to disrupt the work of Turkey’s leading aid organization Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There) continues with the unlawful blocking of the organization’s bank accounts on Oct. 22.
President of Kimse Yok Mu İsmail Cingöz told Today’s Zaman that the government’s decision to block their organization’s bank accounts was an attempt to paralyze the aid organization, which was found to be clean following extensive legal investigations.
Cingöz said that the accounts of Kimse Yok Mu at two banks, Garanti and Akbank, were blocked following a note from the İstanbul Governor’s Office. Cingöz says that Kimse Yok Mu were not privy to the content of the note, although they were told that several banks received it.
In an earlier decision, which Kimse Yok Mu filed a legal complaint against, the Cabinet made it illegal for the charity to raise money without prior permission from the Government on Sept. 22. Cingöz said that although the decision was groundless, the charity asked the banks not to accept funds for specific campaigns, but the Governor’s Office now prevents access to their previously collected money by violating the existing rights of the charity. Cingöz noted that Kimse Yok Mu will file a legal complaint against the Governor’s Office, the department of associations within the Ministry of Interior and the two banks.
Kimse Yok Mu has already issued legal complaints against officials who were involved in a smear campaign against the aid organization, which feels threatened by the government due to its affiliation with the Hizmet movement. Cingöz said that due to arbitrary investigations and fabricated reports on the charity, they are suing Minister of Interior Efkan Ala, his undersecretary and the director of department of associations Yılmaz Doruk, asking for 10 million TL compensation.
Criticizing the government’s deliberate efforts to undermine Kimse Yok Mu, Cingöz says that the decision to make obtaining permission obligatory for all aid campaigns, the government is blocking aid to millions of people.
Cingöz refered to the remarks of Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç who asked Kimse Yok Mu to write a petition when it needs permission to raise money. Cingöz says that the government’s aim is to cripple the charity. Since Sept. 22, Kimse Yok Mu applied for permission to raise money for seven different aid campaigns, but the government has not responded to them. Cingöz says there is 60-day time limit for responses, but it is most likely that the government will wait until the last minute to reject their requests.
According to Cingöz, by pending the requests, the government is preventing aid reaching people in Gaza, Palestine, Syria, Turkmens and the rebuilding of the schools in southeastern Turkey, which were burned in terrorist attacks.
According to Cingöz, the government’s decision was well planned in terms of timing. The official notice was delivered on Oct. 2, just two days before eid al-adha, for which people had already donated money for animals to be slaughtered and delivered to the poor.
“By the time we received the official note we had already collected the money for the meat delivery,” Cingöz said. According to him, had they not delivered the animals to poor, they could have been accused of misuse of funds, as some associations have in the past.
No new legal decision can be applied to past campaigns as Cingöz says and Kimse Yok Mu is still authorized to raise money from donations, though not for specific campaigns.
As far as the alleged government plans to appoint a trustee to the charity, Cingöz says that had the government discovered the slightest malpractice, they would have done so. “I wonder what crime they will attribute to us,” Cingöz said as he challenged the government one more time to find any evidence of fraud.
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç dismissed claims on Monday during a press briefing following a bi-weekly Cabinet meeting that the authorities are considering to appoint a trustee to take over the aid organization, noting that he particularly asked Interior Minister Efkan Ala, who rejected any efforts in that regard.
Speaking to Today’s Zaman regarding the decision to freeze the Kimse Yok Mu’s bank accounts, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Mehmet Bekaroğlu defined the implementation as unlawful.
“This is an unacceptable decision. The government’s blatant and arbitrary moves know no limit. We are encountering lawlessness similar to the Feb. 28, 1997 process. [An unarmed military intervention that resulted in the fall of the coalition government led by Necmettin Erbakan of the now-defunct Welfare Party (RP) under the leadership of Gen. Çevik Bir]. If there is an offense and criminals, then the courts launch the needed legal process. A civil society group or a segment of society cannot be targeted through various reasons,” he added.
Criticizing the government’s arbitrary decisions about the charity, former İzmir Mayor Burhan Özfatura emphasized that the political administration is acting on the basis of revenge and hatred, adding: “It violates the law blatantly. Blocking Kimse Yok Mu’s bank account is unconscionable and contradicts the law regulating aid organizations’ authority to hold aid campaigns and collect money. It is a fact that previous examinations into the charity came out clean.”
Criticizing the government’s concessive attitude towards the settlement process being conducted between the government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Özfatura went on: “Those people who struggle to serve their country are deprived of the tolerance that is shown towards the terrorists. Cruel treatment of businesspeople affiliated with the [faith-based] Hizmet movement is continuing. The rule of law is continually violated.”
Source: Today's Zaman , October 27, 2014