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Far-right Turkish leader breaks post-quake silence, targets relief organizations

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The leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has broken his dayslong silence in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake and targeted two popular figures in the quake zone who are engaged in relief efforts, Turkish media outlets reported.

The only time Devlet Bahçeli has spoken since the earthquake a week ago Monday was at his party’s parliamentary group meeting last Tuesday. The 7.8 earthquake, which struck near the city of Gaziantep, has so far killed more than 35,000 people across 10 provinces in Turkey and parts of Syria.

The MHP leader has also not visited any of the places affected by the earthquake, either, although his hometown of Osmaniye is one of the cities most affected by the temblor.

Bahçeli, an election ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, spoke at his party’s parliamentary group meeting again on Tuesday, when he targeted rock singer Haluk Levent and YouTube celebrity Oğuzhan Uğur, who are engaged in relief efforts in the earthquake-stricken region.

Bahçeli said it was wrong for AHBAP, a popular relief organization led by Levent and Babala TV, Uğur’s YouTube channel, 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.

The Foundation of Anatolian People and Peace Platform (AHBAP), which was established in 2017 with Levent on its board of directors and a network of volunteers in 68 provinces across Turkey, has won the support and trust of millions in Turkey and around the world with its quick and well-coordinated relief efforts in the wake of the massive earthquake.

A large group of volunteers organized by Uğur and his Babala TV team are working in cooperation with AHBAP in the quake zone to collect aid and raise funds.

Nevertheless, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) has attracted widespread criticism for failing to take swift action to rescue the people trapped under the rubble in thousands of flattened buildings and to coordinate relief items flowing from all around the world as well as Turkey.

AHBAP has drawn the ire of some pro-government circles due to the large sums of aid it collected for earthquake victims, with some government supporters claiming that such a huge amount of money cannot be properly handled by the relief organization.

Yet Levent, in an attempt to ease concerns, said his organization would release a detailed report about their spending for the victims of the earthquake.

Bahçeli also said the best way of helping the earthquake victims is to make donations via AFAD.

With regards to criticism about his absence thus far in the quake-hit regions, Bahçeli said he wouldn’t take seriously anyone asking about the presence of his party in the quake zone.

He said he was waiting for the right time to travel to the disaster area and would soon visit the 10 provinces one by one.

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