Turkish government closes four foreign humanitarian organizations in Turkey

Turkish government has ended the activities of four foreign humanitarian organizations operating in Turkey, American Mercy Corps, the Italian-based Coordination of the Organizations for Voluntary Service (COSV), the UK-based International NGO Safety Organization (INSO) and the US-based Business Software Alliance Incorporation (BSA), on the grounds of “national security.”

According to Turkish official sources 48 foreign NGOs and foundations had been operating in Turkey on issues concerning refugees since the Syrian crisis erupted. The COSV and INSO were denied permission to operate in January, while the Mercy Corps and BSA were prevented from doing so in February.

The negotiations of the deputy secretary general of the United Nations, the US State Department and US Ambassador to Turkey John Bass with Turkish officials on behalf of the some banned NGOs have given no result.
Turkish Interior Ministry has refused to renew the licenses of three NGOs while another one withdrew its application to open an office in Turkey.

Speaking to state-run media on Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said “Along with Gaziantep and Hatay, where refugees are being sheltered, these organizations have also sought licenses to operate in Diyarbakır. Hatay and Gaziantep are significant, as they are the first gateway of migration and host large numbers of immigrants, but Diyarbakır has few migrants.”

Deputy PM Kaynak added that he found their request to operate there suspicious.  “There is not that much interest in Kilis, which has a [large] refugee population,” Kaynak said and continued “It was understandable that NGOs targeting refugees would want to work in the border provinces of Hatay and Gaziantep but Diyarbakir has the least number of immigrants in Turkey. It’s strange that everyone has turned their eyes there and asked for permission to operate there.”

Kaynak  went on to list certain restrictions on NGOs operating in Turkey, including restrictions on employing foreigners, money transfers and employing “wanted people and criminals.” “At this moment, the Interior Ministry is doing an investigation on all foundations,” Kaynak said. “We are also doing an investigation. We don’t want these [foundations] to carry out activities to disrupt Turkey’s national unity under the pretext of foundation activities.

“Let’s not allow missionary activities, let’s not provide an opportunity for everybody to impose their ideology, their own views… Let’s switch to a system that coordinates, regulates and distributes aid in the field,” he stated.

According to data compiled by turkeypurge.com, Turkish government has closed down 560 foundations, 1125 associations, 19 trade unions in Turkey under the state of emergency declared following a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

April 13, 2017

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