May 9, 2015

'Gov’t smear campaigns against Kimse Yok Mu increased its public standing’

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government's smear campaigns targeting Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There), the largest volunteer and global aid organization based in Turkey, inspired by the faith-based Gülen movement, boosted the charity's public standing in society and the number of its volunteers and activities across the world, its head İsmail Cingöz has said.

Kimse Yok Mu, which has had consultative status in the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) since 2010, has been a target of the AK Party's ongoing hate campaign against the Gülen movement -- popularly known as the Hizmet movement -- one of the largest faith-based communities in Turkey after a major graft probe came to light on Dec. 17, 2013, implicating people from the inner circle of the AK Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan and AK Party figures accuse sympathizers of the Gülen movement, especially those in the police force and the judiciary, of trying to overthrow the government by launching the graft probe, despite having no evidence to support their accusations. Hizmet, whose supporters are inspired by the views of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, has rejected all the accusations.

After Dec. 17, the AK party started a smear campaign against the institutions established by people inspired by the views of Gülen, such as media organizations, schools, universities, charities and civil society organizations. Using state institutions as a tool in the smear campaign, the government unlawfully limited the activities of these institutions and used pro-government media to portray the Gülen movement as a terrorist group in fabricated stories.

Most recently, a shocking investigation against Kimse Yok Mu came to light after Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Musa Yücel sent a subpoena to Kimse Yok Mu's management asking the charity to send him information about the organization's activities for Eid al-Adha (the Feast of the Sacrifice) in 2011. When Hizmet's lawyers went to the Ankara Courthouse on April 16, they found that the investigation included charges of being an "armed terrorist organization." However, because the Ankara 4th Penal Court of Peace had ordered that the details of the investigation remain confidential, the lawyers could not examine the contents of the investigation file.

Speaking with Sunday's Zaman, Kimse Yok Mu President İsmail Cingöz has criticized the terrorist investigation being conducted against the charity, pointing out that those government officials who are behind the investigation were once waiting in line to attend charitable activities organized by the organization. Cingöz also said that Kimse Yok Mu is an organization that is praised around the world for its independent, transparent and efficient aid activities, emphasizing that it regularly shares all the details of its financial and aid activities with the state, the United Nations and the governments of each country where aid is delivered.

Government members and state officials participated in ‘terror' activities of Kimse Yok Mu

Underlining the fact that all the activities of the charity during the Feast of the Sacrifice in Turkey were conducted under the supervision of officials from the Prime Ministry's Religious Affairs Directorate, the Provincial Agricultural Directorate and a notary specializing in hygienic and Islamic regulations, Cingöz criticized the prosecutors' investigation, saying if these are terror activities, all state institutions must also be blamed for taking part.

Almost half of the deputies of the ruling AK Party in Parliament, the entire Cabinet, the speaker of Parliament, the prime minister and the president have attended dozens of Kimse Yok Mu events across the world. If some of those people were somehow not invited to Kimse Yok Mu events, they expressed their resentment to organizers, Cingöz noted. “All of a sudden things have been reversed and all the AK Party politicians who attended our events have participated in the smear campaign against us,” he said.

The activities of Kimse Yok Mu were closely audited by inspectors assigned by the Interior Ministry last year and a report prepared by these inspectors in October 2014 stated that not a single flaw had been discovered in the organization's activities. However, the government removed Kimse Yok Mu's right to collect donations without obtaining permission from the relevant authorities in a Cabinet decision in October.

Later in November 2014, the Council of State issued a stay of execution on the Cabinet decision to rescind Kimse Yok Mu's right to collect charitable donations, saying that the decision is against the law. Since then, Kimse Yok Mu's activities have continued but are hampered by state offices such as the İstanbul Governor's Office, directorates and banks, despite the court order, Cingöz says.

Although there are no legal grounds for the İstanbul Governor's Office to refuse permission to Kimse Yok Mu to perform its activities after the Council of State's decision, it typically delays by almost two months its replies to letters sent by the charity to inform the office of its -- now legal -- activities, Cingöz said, emphasizing that their letters are to inform the governor's office, not to seek permission. “We will continue with our projects even if the governor's office rejects them, which it has no legal grounds to do. Knowing that, they don't take any legal action against us,” Cingöz noted.

According to Cingöz, Western countries are now ridiculing Turkey due to the terror probe against Kimse Yok Mu, which has a good reputation at the UN and other international organizations due to its charitable works and transparent methods.

Kimse Yok Mu is the only Turkish charity in Palestine

Giving information about the activities of Kimse Yok Mu in the Palestinian territories, Cingöz informed Sunday's Zaman that Kimse Yok Mu is the only Turkish charity that has had a representative office in Jerusalem since 2013.

Receiving frequent high-level visits from Palestinian state officials and civil society organizations, Cingöz said that they hosted the deputy chief of staff of the Palestinian army last week in their headquarters. Cingöz said that Kimse Yok Mu activities in Palestine, such as medical aid, health checks, food aid, schools and dormitories for war victims, orphanages and construction material aid to those who lost their houses during wars, is continuing in Gaza and the West Bank and is highly appreciated by Palestinian state officials.

Kimse Yok Mu President Cingöz also said that the Turkish charity is going to open an office in Kathmandu in Nepal to quickly deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Nepal, which was devastated by a recent earthquake. Kimse Yok Mu was one of the first international aid organization to send teams to Nepal to help in the search and rescue operations after a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck the country on May 2 and caused the death of thousands of people.

Facts about Kimse Yok Mu

· Established in 2002 as a Turkish humanitarian aid organization.
· Granted Public Interest Association status in 2006.
· Granted the right to collect donations without obtaining permission from the relevant authorities by the Cabinet in 2007.
· Granted United Nations ECOSOC Special Consultative Status in 2010.
· Has carried out joint projects with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since 2010.
· Signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Union in April 2015 to collaborate to advance aid efforts on the continent.
· Has operational activities in 113 countries across the world, with 31 branches in Turkey as well as offices in New York, Addis Ababa and Brussels.
· Is involved in more than 1,000 projects across the world, focusing on education, social services, medical services, housing, disaster relief, emergency response and sustainable development as well as providing food aid, basic necessities and household goods.
· Has reached more than 4.5 million people in need across the world.
· Has built 36 schools across the world.
· Has performed cataract operations on 34,607 people in Sudan, Cameroon, Chad , Niger, Mali, the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Nepal and Nigeria since 2008.
· Has drilled 2,135 water wells in 18 African and Asian countries and provided clean water to more than 5 million people.
· Has over 220,000 registered volunteers assisting its operations around the globe.
· Has 3 million individual donors.
· Has distributed TL 507 million in aid to more than 300,000 families over the last three years.
· Has helped 59,564 orphans in 56 countries by constructing and renovating 28 orphanages.
· Has constructed hospitals, social complexes and towns in disaster hit areas in Haiti, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia and Pakistan.
· Participated in rescue operations in Van and Soma in Turkey and Japan, Philippines and Nepal via its rescue team ASYA, which has 350 volunteers in 12 centers.
· Has educated more than 150,000 people about earthquakes using earthquake simulators.
· Distributed meat to more than 810,000 people in need in 73 countries across the world during Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) in 2014.
· Gave scholarships to 1,500 Turkish, 1,500 Syrian and 908 other students in the 2013-2014 academic year in Turkey.
· Established İkbaliye town in Pakistan, which has 296 houses, a mosque, a school, a commercial market and six plots for recreational parks.
· Has distributed food to more than 4,000 Syrian refugees six days a week in Kilis province since September 2012, an operation costing almost TL 10 million.

Awards received by Kimse Yok Mu

· The Turkish Grand National Assembly Outstanding Service Award in 2008 for its service to the Republic of Turkey and contribution to the promotion of the country.
· The Medal of High Honor Award by the Peruvian parliament in 2008 for supporting the people of Peru with relief services to earthquake victims after the earthquake in 2007.
· The Outstanding Service Medal of the president of Somalia for its successful aid activities in Somalia in 2008.
· Letter of appreciation from the chief minister of Punjab state in India in 2013.
· Honor award by the Philippines' army for its aid activities and contributions to peace in the country in April 2015.
· Named by Swiss non-profit group Global_Geneva as one of the world's best NGOs
· Letter of appreciation from the vice president of the Philippines in 2014.
· Letter of appreciation from the Northern Virginia Regional Commission in 2014.
· NGO of the Year Award by various educational, civil society and media organizations.
· Peace and Fidelity Award by various business associations.
· Institutional Social Responsibility Award by various professional federations.
· Service to Peace, Social Responsibility, Superiority of the Helping Hand and Achievement Award awards by various civil society organizations and NGOs.

Published on Today's Zaman, 09 May 2015, Saturday