July 15, 2014

CHP: Will Fatih College's seized land be given to TÜRGEV?

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) asked the government on Tuesday about the veracity of rumors claiming that land formerly belonging to Fatih College will be handed over to the Foundation of Youth and Education in Turkey (TÜRGEV), which was involved in a corruption scandal that became public on Dec. 17.

CHP Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu submitted a parliamentary question to Environment and Urban Planning Minister İdris Güllüce about the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality's (İBB) recent decision to stop the construction of an educational complex on privately owned land in Gaziosmanpaşa on the pretext that the land will be used as a “green area.”

In his parliamentary question, Tanrıkulu asked for the reason behind the seizure of the land belonging to Fatih College, an educational institution affiliated with the faith-based Hizmet movement, and questioned whether there are plans to hand over the land to TÜRGEV or a pro-government construction firm in order to build a shopping mall on the land.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son Bilal is on the executive board of TÜRGEV; he is connected to allegations of bribery and irregularities within the foundation.

In 2004 the İBB declared approximately 7,000 square meters of land in İstanbul's Gaziosmanpaşa district as suitable for the construction of an educational complex. A company named Fetih Educational Operations purchased the land through a tender in July 2009. The institution paid TL 5.2 million for the land and began constructing a school there in 2012 under the Fatih College umbrella organization. The construction of the school is near completion.

On April 21 of this year, municipal police assigned by the İBB sealed the building without citing any reason. On June 6, the İBB took action to turn the land on which the education complex was being built into “green area” and attempted to seize the land. The municipality's Public Works Commission recently declared the land a green area and ordered construction of the education complex to halt. For land to be turned into a green area, the İBB needs the approval of the İstanbul Waterworks Authority (İSKİ), the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality Transportation Coordination Center (UKOME) and the Earthquake and Soil Inspection Directorate (DZİM).

In the case of Fatih College, however, the İBB did not consult any of the aforementioned institutions.

Over the weekend, Fatih College applied to an administrative court in İstanbul to ask for an injunction on the İBB's decision. Fikret Duran, Fatih College's lawyer, said they would also file a lawsuit for damages against certain İBB officials due to the financial losses that the municipality's decision has caused to the college.

According to Durak, the İBB's decision to turn the area of land on which Fatih College is being built into a “green area” is arbitrary and unlawful.

More recently, the prime minister ordered officials in municipalities run by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to seize land and buildings belonging to Hizmet, by “any means necessary.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 15 July 2014, Tuesday