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Levent will not attend TIME’s 100 Most Influential People gala due to criticism of Turkish gov’t

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Haluk Levent, the Turkish rock star who was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of 2023, has refused to attend a gala in New York City on April 26 celebrating the list, saying he can’t accept the criticism of the Turkish government in the entry penned by novelist Elif Şafak, Voice of America Turkish edition reported.

TIME published the 2023 list on April 13 in the categories of Icons, Pioneers, Titans, Artists, Leaders and Innovators. The magazine named Levent as one of the Icons.

Levent won the support and trust of millions in Turkey and around the world for the relief efforts of his charity, the Foundation of Anatolian People and Peace Platform (AHBAP), which has a network of volunteers across Turkey, after February’s twin earthquakes that led to massive devastation in the country’s south and southeast and claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people.

“Official announcement just arrived. … I was selected among [TIME’s] 100 most influential people. … But the content made me sad. …  The criticism of the Republic of Turkey over my work is not something I would accept,” Levent said on Thursday in a series of tweets.

He added that he has decided not to go to the US to attend the gala on April 26.

Levent emphasized that all institutions of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, all the opposition municipalities and 18,000 nongovernmental organizations were “one heart” and did their best to contribute to the relief efforts following the earthquakes.

“… the name Haluk Levent is the symbol of hope. The rock star has been tirelessly doing charity work through his nonprofit AHBAP. Following the disaster, when minutes meant the difference between life and death, and the Turkish government proved terribly incompetent, Ahbap was already working on the ground, saving lives,” Şafak wrote, prompting Levent to decline the invitation to the gala celebrating the annual list.

Levent was ranked first on a list of most trusted celebrities in the country, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by Ipsos.

At a time when the Turkish government was being criticized for its ineffective and slow response to the tragedy, Levent collected more than $50 million and mobilized volunteers to help the victims of the earthquakes.

Levent and his charity’s popularity have grown exponentially since the disaster, with many celebrities and international companies choosing to send their donations through AHBAP, saying they trust the organization more than the Turkish government, which drew the ire of government officials and supporters.

In the face of growing pressure from the government, Levent has tried to keep his organization in contact with state agencies and said his organization will be transparent about the use of the donations.

The charity, which is accused by government officials and supporters of equating itself with the state, was also targeted by the leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, an election ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu

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