Monthly Archives: July 2010

Away now, back soon…

No good reason for posting this picture, but here it is anyway. Currently on holiday with family in Italy, where our lives are being governed by the whims of small children. Hence the recent lack of posting. 
Will be back in Istanbul on Friday.

AK Party links with IHH

The New York Times has run a piece, which you can read here, exploring the links between Turkey’s AK Party government and the Islamic IHH charity, the organisers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was disastrously intercepted by Israeli commandos last month.
Most people in Turkey are in little doubt that the links between the IHH and the AK Party are real, despite denial on both sides. The picture above I took at a press conference at the IHH headquarters in Fatih in the immediate aftermath of the raid.  It shows the deputy president of IHH, Yavuz Dede, with the woman and child who were the first people to be released from Israeli custody following the raid. 
The degree to which the IHH and Turkish government were co-ordinating with one another and sharing information during those days immediately following the raid was striking, and it’s interesting that the government have apparently still not given the autopsy report to the US, despite having given it to IHH almost immediately following its release.
See this from an irate James Jeffrey, the US ambassador, to Hurriyet Daily News this week:

“We have to see the official autopsy report concerning the incident. We requested it from the Turkish authorities many times, most recently on July 7,” U.S. Ambassador to Turkey James Jeffrey said in response to a question…

“We know that a nongovernmental organization in Turkey obtained a copy of the autopsy report and put it on its website,” said Jeffrey.

“We find it difficult to understand why we can’t have the autopsy report despite our requests while İHH has already been given it,” the ambassador said.

You can read the full piece here.
What the NYT piece does well is to show the AK Party ties of top IHH board members:

Many of the 21 people listed on the charity’s board have or had close links to the AK Party. In January, Murat Mercan, chairman of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a senior party official, joined an overland aid convoy to Gaza organized by the charity that tried to force its way through the Rafah crossing from Egypt to Gaza.

A trustee of the charity, Ali Yandir, is a senior manager at the Istanbul City Municipality Transportation Corporation. The corporation controls Istanbul Fast Ferries, which sold the Mavi Marmara, with a capacity for 1,090 passengers, to the charity for about $1.8 million. In 2004, Mr. Yandir was an AK Party candidate for the mayor’s office in Istanbul’s Esenler District.

The charity’s board includes Zeyid Aslan, an AK Party member of Parliament and the acting head of the Turkey-Palestine Interparliamentary Friendship Group; Ahmet Faruk Unsal, an AK Party member of Parliament from 2002 to 2007; and Mehmet Emin Sen, a former AK Party mayor in the central Anatolian township of Mihalgazi.

Helping fellow believers

An article of mine has appeared on Eurasianet about the problems facing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and its ECHR victory last month, in which it won back the Prinkipo Orphanage on Buyukada- see earlier post.
One additional comment made by Father Dositheos Anagnostopoulos, the Patriarchal spokesman who I interviewed for the story, may be helpful in understanding something that is perhaps counter-intuitive to those outside Turkey, namely: why a government with Islamist roots should want to help a Christian institution.
He said:
I believe the government wants to solve our problems, not because it particularly loves us, but by our freedom it wants to gain freedom for Muslim groups.
99 per cent of Turks are Muslim, but Islam has long been shackled by the country’s rigidly secular constitution. By implementing EU legislation and turning a blind eye to Muslim charities and institutions which test the limits of the secular laws, the current government has allowed the religion to occupy a larger space in public life.
You can read the piece here.