Opposition leaders blast Turkish Red Crescent over $8 million donation to Islamist foundation

The leaders of Turkey’s opposition parties have blasted Turkish Red Crescent over the organisation’s $ 8 million donation transfer to an Islamist foundation, which provides dorms and education for children, embroiled in a child abuse scandal.

The leader of the country’s main secularist opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) called on Tuesday for the organisation’s administration to resign, while the leader of centre-right nationalist Good (İYİ) Party said Turkish Red Crescent had become a front organisation that transfers money to pro-government circles, Diken news site reported on Tuesday.

Following a string of reports in Turkish media, Turkish Red Crescent confirmed last month that it had transferred over a $ 7.9 million conditional donation by Başkentgaz, Turkey’s second largest gas distributor in Ankara, to the Ensar Foundation.

Ensar made headlines in 2016, when a teacher at the foundation was charged with the sexual abuse of 45 young children who had been staying on the foundation’s premises in the central province of Karaman. Despite the scandal, Ensar continues to enjoy the support of the Turkish government.

“The administration of Kızılay must resign. If they have an ethical administration they should resign,’’ CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said.

“Kızılay is an organisation that receives donations, why would they donate elsewhere’’ the CHP leader asked. 

Turkish Red Crescent has defended its donation to Ensar, saying many organisations donate to the aid foundation, stipulating where and how they want their money to be utilised.

The Ensar Foundation announced last month that the donation it recevied was later transferred to the U.S.-based Turken Foundation, which was established in the United States in 2014 to provide students with housing and scholarships and to organise cultural programmes. 

The Turken Foundation was set up by Ensar and TÜRGEV, an educational foundation founded in 1996 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose daughter Esra Albayrak currently sits on its executive board.

“They are building a skyscraper in Manhattan,’’ Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to Turken’s activities. “Supposedly, students are going to stay there. Will students stay in those dorms, or will pro-government names in the presidential palace guarantee their future there?’’ he added. 

Good Party leader Meral Akşener also weighed in on Turkish Red Crescent’s donation.

“Turkish Red Crescent, which has a 150-year history, has turned into a front organisation that transfers money to pro-government figures,’’ Diken quoted Akşener as saying.