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İstanbul Municipality paid over $160K for AKP MP’s Ph.D. in US, journalist says

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A Turkish journalist has revealed that a lawmaker for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who was recruited by the İstanbul Municipality in 2008 and went to the US to work on a Ph.D. on a scholarship from the municipality soon afterward had been given more than $160,000 by 2013.

Barış Pehlivan on Tuesday said in a column in the Cumhuriyet daily that AKP MP Ravza Kavakçı Kan, who was recruited by then AKP-run municipality in December 2008 and was sent by them to study in the US the same month, had been given a total of $155,000 and TL 59,000 ($6,892) over the course of five years by 2013.

The journalist’s revelations were based on an inspector’s report on the MP’s links to the municipality ordered by Ekrem İmamoğlu, the current mayor of İstanbul from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

İmamoğlu ended the years-long rule of the AKP government in İstanbul by defeating the party’s candidate twice in 2019 local elections and has been revealing documents detailing illegal spending and irregularities in the municipality during the rule of AKP.

Pehlivan stated that Kan was recruited as a human resources specialist at Metro A.Ş., a subsidiary of the municipality, on Dec. 16, 2008 and that a sponsorship letter promising that the municipality would cover Kan’s education expenses, health insurance and other expenses during her stay in the US was written to Howard University within a week.

Kan was handed an additional $4,000 on Dec. 30, 2008 on the day she left for the US to earn a Ph.D. in political science, and the university was also informed that she would be given $2,000 for every month she spent in the US, the journalist added.

Pehlivan also revealed that the municipality has applied to the Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office with the report on Kan, demanding the return of the money “that came out of the pockets of the public” with interest and the launching of a judicial process against the municipality staff of the time “for authorizing unlawful transactions.”

İmamoğlu formerly said he found it difficult to understand why Metro A.Ş., which works on transportation, provided a five-year scholarship to one of its employees so that she could get a Ph.D. in political science in the US, adding that she failed to perform the compulsory work at the municipality, required for four years, 11 months in return for using the municipality’s resources.

Kan returned from the US in September 2013 and was elected to parliament in 2015.

She is the sister of Merve Kavakçı, who was Turkey’s first headscarved deputy, elected to parliament in 1999 from the now-closed Virtue Party. Kavakçı caused an uproar when she wore her headscarf to a swearing-in ceremony in parliament in what some saw as defiance of the secular Turkish Constitution. At that time Turkish law banned the wearing of Islamic-style headscarves in public institutions.

The incident led to the revocation of Kavakçı’s Turkish citizenship after she was found to have acquired US citizenship without informing the authorities; hence, she was prevented from serving in parliament.

Kavakçı was appointed as Turkey’s ambassador to Kuala Lumpur in 2017 by the AKP government.

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