Takeover of Davutoğlu-linked foundation by Turkish gov’t sparks condemnation

A number of Turkish NGOs, civil society organisations and legal associations have come out in criticism of a move by the Turkey’s government on Tuesday to seize a foundation linked to former Turkish prime minister and leader of the new Future Party, Ahmet Davutoğu.

The Istanbul-based Foundation for Sciences and Arts (BİSAV) itself was quick to denounce the decision by the government to assign three trustees to take over the foundation, calling the move against it a "dangerous initiative".

Davutoğlu, who earlier this year launched Turkey’s newest party to rival the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of former ally Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is among the founders of BISAV, which is lauded as a leading institution of Turkey’s conservative intellectual circle.

BİSAV since 1986 has organised seminars and led research on politics, history, economics and literature.

Turkey’s conservative Humanitarian Relief Foundation (İHH) said it was saddened and disturbed the move.

"It is unacceptable to carry over the process of seizing the Şehir University to the foundation,’’ İHH said in a statement it issued on Wednesday.

The seizure of BİSAV arrives weeks after the Turkish government seized Davutoğlu-linked Istanbul Sehir University for failing to pay back loans to Turkish state-run Halkbank following a years-long legal battle over land.

The Turkish Lawyers Association, one of the country’s oldest legal organisations, called for an immediate correction of the misstep on behalf of the government, saying the seziure had "disturbed the conscience of the public’’.  

"It is evident that precautions taken following the July 2016 coup attempt to battle the FETÖ terrorist organisation have at times damaged innocent people and rooted organisations,’’ the association said in a statement it released on Wednesday.

The practice of assigning state-appointed officials to institutions gained traction following the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which the Turkish government accuses a religious group called the Gülen movement of orchestrating. Ankara refers to the group, which it has designated as a terrorist organisation, as FETÖ (The Fethullah Terror Organisation).

The Önder Association of İmam Hatip religious school graduates also come out in criticism of BİSAV’s seizure.

"The practices against BİSAV and the legal framework on which they rest should be reconsidered,’’ the association said in a statement it released following the news.

The decision taken regarding BİSAV is a worrying development that concerns all of Turkey’s foundations, associations and civil society organisations, it said.