Open Society Foundations to End Operations in Turkey

Open Society Foundations to End Operations in Turkey

The Open Society Foundations is closing its offices in Turkey, days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused OSF founder George Soros of attempting to destabilize the country, Reuters reports. 

OSF said it had been the target of "baseless claims" in the Turkish media that made it impossible for it to continue its work in the country, which has included projects to improve education, promote women's rights, and encourage democratic reforms. In addition to allegations by the media, the Turkish Interior Ministry recently has renewed its attempts to link OSF to anti-government protests at Istanbul's Gezi Park in 2013. 

Earlier this month, Hakan Altinay, chair of the Open Society Foundation – Turkey and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was among thirteen people detained for allegedly supporting Turkish human rights activist Osman Kavala, who has been jailed since October 2017 and accused of financing and directing the Gezi protest as well as having links with the alleged organizers of a failed coup attempt in July 2016. In a speech last week, Erdogan linked the arrests to Soros. "The person (Kavala) who financed terrorists during the Gezi incidents is already in prison," the Turkish president 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 pro-government Sabah newspaper, citing reports from financial crime investigators, said OSF had made financial transfers to Kavala's organization between August 2011 and April 2017 to support the spread of the Gezi protests. The foundation said it had informed the Turkish authorities every year about its grantees and that Turkish authorities had signed off on them.

"However, with the new investigations that have been opened, it is seen that there is an effort to link the Open Society Foundation to the Gezi incidents in 2013. These efforts are not new and they are outside reality," the foundation said. "The increase of baseless claims and disproportionate speculation in the media in recent days has made it impossible for the foundation to continue its operations."

Ali Kucukgocmen, Gulsen Solaker. "Soros Foundation to Close in Turkey After Attack by Erdogan." Reuters 11/26/2018.