Turkish singer’s charity AHBAP faces increasing gov’t pressure as its popularity grows

Turkish rock singer and public figure Haluk Levent’s non-profit organization, which has won the support and trust of millions in Turkey and around the world with its relief efforts after last week’s major earthquakes, has been facing increasing pressure from the government and is accused of equating itself with the state, Turkish Minute reported.

The Foundation of Anatolian People and Peace Platform (AHBAP), which has Levent on its board of directors and a network of volunteers in 68 provinces across Turkey, has been engaged in relief efforts in the earthquake-stricken region. The volunteers have been participating in search and rescue efforts, collecting all kinds of aid and raising funds for the quake victims.

The charity’s popularity has grown exponentially since the disaster, with many celebrities and international companies choosing to send their donations through AHBAP, saying they trust the organization more than the Turkish government, which drew the ire of government officials and supporters.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Wednesday said during a press statement in Kahramanmaraş, close to the quake’s epicenter, that they would “do what is necessary” regarding any civil society organizations that abuse the government’s cooperation with them in relief efforts by equating themselves with the state, hinting at AHBAP.

According to a claim reported by journalist Birsen Altuntaş, Turkish actors Oktay Kaynarca and Kenan İmirzalıoğlu, who have supported AHBAP’s relief efforts since the quakes struck, were prohibited from taking part in a joint broadcast of Turkish TV stations aimed at raising funds for quake victims, upon a request by the pro-government ATV.

Levent said in a tweet regarding the claims that he was “sorry” and blames himself for what happened.

“I, too, donated to AFAD [Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency] in last year’s aid campaign. Let’s raise money for AFAD on TV tomorrow with all the celebrities,” the singer added.

Leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli, an election ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Tuesday also targeted Levent as well as YouTube celebrity Oğuzhan Uğur, who is also engaged in relief efforts in the earthquake-stricken region.

Bahçeli said it was wrong for AHBAP and Uğur’s YouTube channel Babala TV to collect aid and raise funds in the aftermath of the earthquake by “ignoring the state.”

“Where couldn’t the state reach, what couldn’t it do to cause AHBAP and Babala to flap their wings like vultures? These fakes shouldn’t be on Turkish TV!” Bahçeli said.

AHBAP has received more than TL 1 billion ($53 million) from its benefactors, including TikTok, Yves Rocher, Tyrrell Investments Limited, Uber, LG, Bitfinex and McDonald’s in addition to ordinary Turkish citizens, businessmen and celebrities since the disaster.

Meanwhile, Levent on Wednesday thanked global pop star Madonna in a tweet for saying “The Best Place to Donate is – ahbap.org” in an Instagram post about the major earthquakes that hit southeastern Turkey on Feb. 6.

The 7.8-magnitude quake that struck near the city of Gaziantep as people slept claimed the lives of 35,418 people and injured more than 105,000 across 10 southeastern provinces hardest hit by the disaster, according to the latest official figures. It was followed by thousands of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that struck the region later the same day.

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