George Soros’ Open Society Foundations group said on November 26 it is to bring its operations in Turkey to an end, days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined in the growing vilification of the entrepreneur and liberal and progressive philanthropist Soros by populist leaders around the world.
Erdogan last week described the 88-year-old Soros as the “famous Hungarian Jew” and accused him of backing anti-government protests to divide Turkey and other countries. Turkey’s pursuit of Soros’ philanthropic operations will go down badly in Brussels. Following the ending of Turkey’s two-year state of emergency in July, it has been looking for signs that Ankara is getting back on a path that could progress its application for European Union membership. On November 22, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini caused anger in Ankara when she declared at a press conference given after a meeting with her Turkish counterpart: "A strong Turkey means a democratic Turkey."
Open Society Foundations said it had been the target of baseless claims in the Turkish media that made it impossible for it to continue with its work in Turkey. It is also facing an interior ministry investigation. The probe is looking at claimed links between the organisation and the anti-government Gezi Park protests that took place in Istanbul in 2013. It denies any such links.
One of the group’s founders in Turkey, Hakan Altinay, was among 13 people detained 10 days ago. The detainees included professors from some of the country’s top universities and a journalist. They were accused of backing now-jailed rights activist Osman Kavala in attempting to overthrow the government through mass protests.
“The person [Kavala] who financed terrorists during the Gezi incidents is already in prison,” Erdogan last week told a meeting of local administrators. “And who is behind him? The famous Hungarian Jew Soros. This is a man who assigns people to divide nations and shatter them. He has so much money and he spends it this way.”
The foundation further stated that “new investigations” were trying to connect it to the Gezi protests. “These efforts are not new and they are outside reality,” it added.
Open Society Foundations added that it would move for the legal liquidation of its operations without delay.
Hungarian-born US investor Soros, a supporter of liberal causes, has been attacked by nationalist politicians in countries including the US, Italy and Hungary, with much of the criticism seen as anti-Semitic.
Soros was recently one of more than a dozen recipients of mail bombs that US prosecutors say were sent by a supporter of President Donald Trump.
Kavala is known for his arts and culture foundation, Anadolu Kultur. Kavala does not yet face an indictment. He has taken his case to the European Court of Human Rights.