Turkey’s top religious authority Diyanet controls vast fortune - DW

The Directorate of Religious Affairs, Turkey’s state agency better known as Diyanet, has been active in several sectors, including construction, meat packing and tourism, amassing vast sums of money, Deutsche Welle reported on Friday.

The Diyanet has a budget of over 10 million liras ($1.8 million) in 2019, over two thousand real estate assets and 450,000 animals slaughtered annually. The public body arranges for over 400,000 pilgrimages during Hadj and Umrah seasons, according to a report by TÜRSAB, Association of Turkish Travel Agencies.

The Diyanet arranges the slaughter of animals sacrificed for the Islamic holiday of Eid al Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, and distribution of their meat to the poor. The meat packing activities alone could account for over 50 million euros ($55 million) in annual profits, according to writer Ömer Sağlam as quoted by DW.

“Unfortunately, I discovered during my research that the expenditure and revenue aren't properly recorded. The Diyanet is largely uncontrolled,” Sağlam told DW.

Diyanet’s organisational structure is complex and mostly opaque, and through the Diyanet Foundation established in 1975, completely tax-exempt since 1977, DW said.

Diyanet’s subsidiary Komaş A.Ş. has built hundreds of mosques, hospitals, hotels and religious dormitories since 1983, according to DW.

A recent addition to the public body’s portfolio was the Bomonti Beer Factory campus in Istanbul’s Şişli district, an early industrial era heritage site as the first factory of its kind in the Ottoman Empire and in Turkey, the impending demolition of which has not been received well.

“The Diyanet appears like a gigantic holding company — or even more sinister: Like a state within a state,” theologian Cemil Kılıç told DW.

Though the Diyanet was founded to convey an understanding of justice and virtue in Islam, now it is nothing more than a clique that is disconnected from the people, Kılıç said.