Erdoğan says opposition aid drives an attempt to create parallel state

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday said charity drives by opposition-run municipalities during the coronavirus pandemic were an attempt to form a parallel state.

All aid campaigns are being coordinated by state-sanctioned bodies and there is no reason for the main opposition-run municipalities of Istanbul and Ankara to become a state within a state , Cumhuriyet newspaper quoted Erdoğan as saying.

The president launched a nationwide fundraising campaign on Monday to help people hurt financially by the coronavirus pandemic.

Erdoğan pledged seven months of his own salary and urged businesspeople and philanthropists to join a national solidarity campaign. Then the Interior Ministry on Tuesday blocked municipal campaigns to help families in need during the outbreak.

"As the ruling power, we are obliged to give the necessary warnings at this time," Erdoğan said. The opposition, he said, should be mindful, or face "a response from the people of Turkey when the time is right”.

State-run Vakıfbank blocked Ankara municipality’s donation account following a circular sent on Tuesday by the Interior Ministry to all 81 of the country’s provincial governors. It said municipalities could not collect aid during the pandemic without permission from the central government-appointed provincial governor.

The opposition views the measure as a de facto ban on aid drives the government views as being in competition to its own. The municipalities of Ankara and Istanbul are taking the matter to court.

Meanwhile, the country’s state-controlled top religious body on Wednesday released a statement on alms giving, stressing that charity payments could be made to the national campaign.

Alms giving, known as zakaat, is a mandatory religious obligation according to Islam and calls for the giving of 2.5 percent of one's wealth each year to benefit the poor.

"It is also permissible for alms to be collected and distributed to their rightful owners through national aid campaigns,” the Religious Affairs Directorate said on its website.