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Turkish Red Crescent sold second-hand items donated to it, journalist reveals

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The Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), Turkey’s top charity organization, which is at the center of controversy for selling tents to another charity rather than donating them to the victims of an earthquake, also sold second-hand items donated to it, a journalist has revealed.

Cumhuriyet daily columnist Murat Ağırel revealed last week that Kızılay had sold 2,050 tents to the Foundation of Anatolian People and Peace Platform (AHBAP), Turkish rock star Haluk Levent’s relief organization, three days after two powerful earthquakes on Feb. 6 left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Kızılay sold the tents for 46 million Turkish lira ($2.4 million), rather than donating them.

Ağırel added that the charity 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 zone.

The revelations led to the emergence of other claims of similar sales in the past, fueling debate especially on social media as to whether Kızılay was a relief organization or a for-profit company.

In his Tuesday column for Cumhuriyet, Ağırel said Kızılay also sold tents to Michelin, gas station chain Opet and white goods manufacturer Arçelik in addition to selling second-hand items donated to it.

“According to Kızılay’s 2021 activity report, it sold 1,000,000 second-hand items in 2019 and 759,000 more in 2020. Kızılay [is] run by a general manager who receives a monthly salary of TL 98,000 [$5,188] … and assistant general managers who are paid TL 76,000 [$4,024],” Ağırel said.

Ağırel’s earlier claims about tents were 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.”

Levent on Monday said they also 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.

Following harsh criticism from politicians, celebrities and social media users, Kınık made another statement during a program on CNN Türk and said he hadn’t known about the sale to AHBAP beforehand and “criticized” his “friends” at the charity once he did.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ally Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on Monday released a photo to the press with Kınık during their visit to Adıyaman, one of the earthquake-affected provinces.

The photo showed that the president continues to support Kınık despite the calls for his resignation due to the recent revelations.

When asked if he would resign, Kınık told Hürriyet daily columnist Hande Fırat that he had been elected and wouldn’t act on the word of some “know-nothings” while he has enjoyed “such great success.”

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

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

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