Turkey's political Islamists, armed with abusive government powers, are deliberately and maliciously trying to strangle the country's leading private charity group, Kimse Yok Mu, in order to dismantle an important barrier in front of the awkward social engineering project of turning this moderate Muslim nation into a bastion for ideological zealots.
Islamists who exploit the religious sensitivities of the people also want to eliminate the competition to their favored charity groups and government-sponsored programs that were primarily designed to produce political support for Islamists rather than lifting them out of poverty. The goal is to create dependence upon their social services so that Islamists will perpetuate their power and influence among these communities. For them, the charity work is simply a patronage system to win loyalty and votes.
As such, Kimse Yok Mu, as an organization that promotes non-political, neutral social and charitable works, represents a serious challenge to the ambitions of political Islamists to harvest more power. The agency is undercutting political Islamists' efforts that could diminish political support for them.
At the personal and corporate level, the stalled corruption investigations of last year have exposed how pro-government charitable organizations have been greasing the wheels of some private companies and fattening the wallets of senior officials. In exchange for large sums of donations to foundations affiliated with political Islamists, controversial foreign nationals as well as Turkish citizens were able to curry favor with the government.
This explains why political Islamists would rather work with agencies that run the risk of either inadvertent or deliberate involvement with shady and controversial organizations in Turkey and abroad. Kimse Yok Mu, a perfectly legitimate charity, never signed on to dubious projects that could have cast a shadow on its reputation.
The integrity and credibility of the organization is very important to the administrators of the agency, who place special emphasis on transparency and accountability in its governance structure. The organization has been trying to work within the global network by implementing international standards and best practices. The fact that it is the only aid organization in Turkey that holds UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) special consultative status tells the tale.
The organization developed internationally recognized relief programs in partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2013 and received the Outstanding Service Award in 2013 from the Turkish Parliament controlled by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). It has also received numerous citations from authorities in the 113 countries it has been active in for years. The agency has developed a capacity to deliver emergency relief in disaster zones, as well as to rebuild infrastructure in communities, thereby providing long-term assistance, which includes the construction of homes, hospitals, schools and health facilities.
By attacking Kimse Yok Mu, political Islamists hope to generate fear through much of the Turkish charitable sector and perhaps want to create a pretext to take over this popular, well-funded aid group with its wide-ranging charity and social networks. The government goes after the group with blatant abuse of executive powers in registration, monitoring and investigation of a non-profit organization. Despite the fact that the agency was cleared twice this year with rigorous and intensive screening and auditing by government inspectors as part of a politically targeted audit, the government nevertheless decided to limit and suspend on some occasions Kimse Yok Mu's permits to raise, hold and use funds in charitable work.
The organization filed a lawsuit in an administrative court to challenge the government's decision to limit the agency's activities, but sorting out legal matters will take time to finalize. In the meantime, the attacks on the aid group have disrupted Kimse Yok Mu's charitable and humanitarian work in many parts of the world, leaving a large vacuum in services. The fact that some of their accounts were frozen by a government decision without judicial review thwarted the organization from completing the obligations and commitments it has been fulfilling so far without a glitch.
The punitive actions by the government have caused widespread resentment among Turks. In fact, the contributions to the aid agency have doubled this year from earlier levels. Despite the smear campaign waged by the pro-government media to discredit the agency and sow seeds of doubt about it, Kimse Yok Mu does not seem to have scaled back its operations or suspended activities. They scramble to find ways to fulfill their commitments and even ask their volunteers to donate their contributions directly to the charity work in progress on the ground.
Kimse Yok Mu was established by volunteers in Turkey and is inspired by well-respected Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has preached the need for Muslims to set up alternative social networks to counter malicious ones in order to prevent the abuse of charitable work and radicalizing vulnerable populations through the provision of legitimate social services. Therefore, Kimse Yok Mu has emerged as a relief organization that offers Muslims a reliable and safe mechanism to channel their donations to communities in need especially in high security risk areas.
The reason why Kimse Yok Mu is very popular among well over 100 host countries it operates in is that it does not challenge authority but rather tries to work with the government. It does not harbor an ulterior motive but merely wants to deliver humanitarian aid to those in need and make a difference in their lives. Foreign governments welcome apolitical charity groups such as Kimse Yok Mu that provide services to disadvantaged groups because such endeavors contribute to the host government's efforts to ensure social and political stability.
That was the main reason why Kimse Yok Mu declined to participate to the Mavi Marmara humanitarian flotilla in 2010; there was no agreement in advance with the authorities over aid to Gaza. The flotilla, led by activists, resulted in the killing of eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American in international waters in a raid by Israel soldiers who wanted to stop the Turkish ship en route to Gaza in defiance of the illegal blockade. Without making much noise, Kimse Yok Mu has been delivering humanitarian and development assistance to Gaza, Ramallah and other parts of Palestine for years in cooperation with its neighbors' approvals such as Egypt and Israel.
The unjustified war against the largest charity group in Turkey is part of the personal vendetta campaign of Turkey's chief political Islamist, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, against Gülen, whom he failed to enlist in the Islamists' campaign to abuse religion for political campaigns. Kimse Yok Mu represents a larger pattern of harassment, threats and intimidation against members of Hizmet, a social movement with a focus on science education, moderation and intercultural dialogue. Erdoğan hopes to keep Hizmet in check by exerting undue pressure on all institutions and people seen to be affiliated with Hizmet.
That is the difference between what Gülen represents and what Erdoğan has delivered in Turkey. The former engages in a democratic process, believes in transparency and accountability, supports pluralism, promotes interfaith and intercultural dialogue, emphasizes science and moral education, rejects corruption and cronyism and respects the rights of others. The latter represents the complete opposite because he likely sees the democratic process as merely a vehicle to power and will not hesitate to violate the rights of others when full power is obtained.
What is more, political Islamists may not even believe the alternate system of governance and will do anything and everything to cling on to power.
Published on Today's Zaman, 07 November 2014, Friday