İstanbul Municipality leased, allocated 38 properties to pro-gov’t foundations in AKP era

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The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality leased or allocated 38 of its properties to foundations and associations close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government between 2015 and 2019, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Friday.

The Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), on whose advisory board President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan sits, had leased 12 properties from the municipality, while the Ensar Foundation, the Aziz Mahmut Hüdayi Foundation, the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV) and the Society for the Dissemination of Science leased seven, six, four and one, respectively, according to Cumhuriyet.

Esra Albayrak, the daughter of President Erdoğan and wife of former Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, is one of the executives of TÜRGEV. Fatmanur Altun, chairman of the executive board of the foundation, is also the wife of Fahrettin Altun, Erdoğan’s communications director.

The report said the municipality also had allocated one property each to the Foundation for the Dissemination of Science, the Deniz Feneri Aid And Solidarity Association, the Society for the Dissemination of Science and TÜGVA in the five years between 2015 and 2019.

After Erdoğan’s AKP and its predecessors’ 25-year rule in the country’s largest city and commercial hub, Ekrem İmamoğlu from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) assumed office as the İstanbul mayor, following a decisive victory in a June 24 re-run election in 2019. The election had to be repeated due to the AKP’s objection to İmamoğlu’s initial victory, who won by an even larger margin in the repeat poll.

According to Cumhuriyet, some pro-government associations and foundations using the properties were ordered to vacate the properties after the municipality changed hands in June 2019. The legal process is still ongoing for the others, the report added.

Earlier this week, seven pro-government foundations in Turkey, including TÜGVA and TÜRGEV, were also reported by local media to have shared among themselves 769 of 848 student dormitories seized for affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement since a coup attempt in 2016.

The reports were based on tweets by journalist Metin Cihan, who shared documents sent by a former member of one of the foundations.

At its peak the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative renowned for its educational activities, operated schools in 160 countries, from Afghanistan to the United States. In Turkey, the network had run thousands of educational facilities, including schools, prep schools, universities and dormitories.

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