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Turkish Red Crescent: Relief organization or for-profit company?

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Turkey is debating whether its top charity organization, the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), is a relief organization or a for-profit company after a recent revelation that it sold tents for people made homeless by two major earthquakes earlier this month to another charity rather than donating them.

The earthquakes, which struck on Feb. 6, killed more than 44,000 people in Turkey and thousands more in neighboring Syria.

According to a report by the Cumhuriyet daily on Saturday, Kızılay sold 2,050 tents to the Foundation of Anatolian People and Peace Platform (AHBAP), Turkish rock singer Haluk Levent’s relief organization, for 46 million Turkish lira ($2.4 million) on the third day after the quake.

The claim was confirmed by both AHBAP and Kızılay chair Kerem Kınık, who said on Twitter that Kızılay Çadır, a subsidiary of his organization in charge of producing the tents, had provided them to AHBAP “at cost” and that their cooperation was “moral, reasonable and ethical.”

The developments led to the emergence of other claims of similar sales in the past, fueling debate, especially on social media.

Levent on Monday said during a program on Fox TV that Kızılay also sold food to AHBAP in return for an amount corresponding to 7 percent of the charity’s budget and also to be used in their post-quake relief efforts.

Elaborating on the sale in a tweet later on, the singer said they purchased 30,000 packages of food good for a year, with one package allowing them to provide three meals to a family of four, from Kızılay Lojistik, a subsidiary of the Red Crescent.

Kınık also confirmed the sale of food to AHBAP, underlining that the commercial relationship was between Levent’s charity and a company affiliated with Kızılay, not Kızılay itself.

“The subjects [mentioned by] the press are the activities of our companies specialized in the field of humanitarian aid, which generates … revenue for the Red Crescent. … The donations to Kızılay are definitely not for sale and are delivered directly to our citizens free of charge,” Kınık said.

According to a report by the Artı Gerçek news website, Kızılay also sold five tents for TL 140,000 ($7,412) each to the Turkish Pharmacists Association (TEB), which has been distributing free medicine in the earthquake area.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Gürsel Tekin said in a parliamentary question submitted in July that Kızılay was acting like a for-profit company with its 11 subsidiaries, 11 general directors, CEO and a large group of political loyalists.

Tekin also underlined that trust in the institution had hit rock bottom because it acts like an extension of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Meanwhile, Turkish weekly satirical magazine Leman featured Kızılay under the rubble on the cover of its new issue due to the recent debates regarding the institution.

“Is there anybody else under the rubble?” rescue workers ask in the picture on the cover, and two people answer, “Yes, it’s us! Kızılay!”

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