Chairman of the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) Kerem Kınık decided not to run again for leadership of the relief organization at its upcoming congress shortly after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized him for selling tents to a humanitarian group three days after two powerful earthquakes in February, a journalist has announced.
Journalist Ersin Çelik from the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily tweeted on Friday about Kınık’s decision not to stand as a candidate for the Kızılay presidency, saying this amounts to an “indirect resignation.”
A statement from the organization also said the organization’s executive board at its meeting on Friday unanimously decided to hold an extraordinary general congress upon a request from Kınık, who has been leading the organization since 2016. The statement said deputy chairperson Fatma Meriç Yılmaz would lead the organization until a new chair is elected.
Meanwhile, Kınık changed his bio on Twitter from Kızılay chairman to Kızılay volunteer.
Kınık came under harsh criticism after Cumhuriyet daily columnist Murat Ağırel revealed in late February 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. Kızılay sold the tents for 46 million Turkish lira ($2.4 million), rather than donating them.
Ağırel’s claims were confirmed by both AHBAP and 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.”
Although almost three months have passed since eruption of the scandal, Erdoğan spoke about it only on Thursday when he met with a group of young people as part of his party’s campaign for Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
When asked about Kızılay’s selling tents rather than donating them to earthquake victims, Erdoğan said he was also deeply saddened by the incident and that it was out of the question for Kızılay to sell tents.
“This mistake should be corrected quickly,” said Erdoğan.
In addition to Erdoğan, several officials from his government including Health Minister Fahrettin Koca criticized the relief organization for selling the tents.
Following harsh criticism from politicians, celebrities and social media users, Kızılay saw a substantial decrease in donations.