December 26, 2015

Newly appointed chairwoman: Kimse Yok Mu is my fourth child

Ayşe Özkalay, the newly appointed chairwoman of the Turkish charitable foundation Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There), has said that the foundation has become her fourth child.

Ayse Ozkalay, the newly appointed chairwoman of 
the Turkish charitable foundation Kimse Yok Mu
Ayşe Özkalay, the newly appointed chairwoman of
the Turkish charitable foundation Kimse Yok Mu (Is Anybody There)

The former chairman of Kimse Yok Mu, İsmail Cingöz, announced on Dec. 18 that Ayşe Özkalay would take the reins of the charity, making her the first woman at the helm of the organization. He congratulated Özkalay in an announcement on Twitter, saying: “Already ready for the position through her [previous post as] vice president; good luck to my dear sister Ayşe Özkalay and the KYM [Kimse Yok Mu] family.”

Özkalay spoke to Today's Zaman on Friday about Kimse Yok Mu's importance for her as the first woman appointed to lead the foundation. When asked about how being a mother helps her in this position, Özkalay said: “Being a mother means being ready to voluntarily face various kinds of hardships. I'm a mother before anything else. I have three children; Kimse Yok Mu has become the fourth. I believe that doing the job with maternal compassion will make extending a helping hand to those who need it different and especially meaningful.”

Pointing that there has been a woman's touch in every charitable project initiated by the foundation, Özkalay said she finds it successful for both the foundation and the society. “I was already actively representing the foundation [as a woman] when I was the vice president. Thus, [I can say that] since the formation of the foundation, the people who made its policies have believed in the power of women and they supported them. Women executives, workers and volunteers have made up the most valuable part of our foundation. All of our projects include a woman's touch,” she said.

When asked about whether having a female president will mean changes for the foundation, Özkalay said: “The world of women is more detailed and filled with grace and emotion. I believe that those details will trigger changes in many processes, including launching and conducting charitable projects.”

Özkalay also spoke out about the investigation of the foundation launched earlier this year by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on charges of financing terrorism. “I definitely don't accept the charges. Where can you find terrorism in actions like loving, helping and treating people with compassion? I see it as an abdication of reason and a lack of conscience to charge a charity that has extended a helping hand to victims, to the oppressed, to orphans in Turkey and in more than 100 countries around the world and whose work is appreciated by them with financing a terrorist organization. I feel like there are no words to describe how I feel about these charges. I hope that they correct this awful mistake,” Özkalay said.

She added that although now the foundation can't organize fundraising campaigns due to legal restrictions related to the investigation, they continue to receive donations from philanthropists for current projects.

Kimse Yok Mu, which is sympathetic to the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement and inspired by the teachings of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, has become a target in a battle launched by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government against the movement. Several pro-government media outlets are carrying out smear campaigns, with publications accusing the charity of engaging in illegal fundraising activities, despite a lack of evidence to that effect.

Cingöz announced his resignation on Dec. 17, saying he had been targeted by the government with a smear campaign and that he did not want the unlawful pressure that was being put on him to hurt the charity.

Published on Today's Zaman, 26 December 2015, Friday