Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar, with several lawmakers from their party’s parliamentary group, marched to the Turkish Red Crescent’s general headquarters in Ankara to draw attention to the scandal surrounding the disaster-relief organisation.
The group were unable to enter the area or make a press statement at the headquarters due to a police blockade.
Red Crescent executives admitted selling tents and food supplies to a charity immediately after the 6 February earthquake hit Turkey’s southern provinces, tremors that left 13.5 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
“Those responsible for this system will be held accountable from the very top to the very bottom,” said Sancar. “Resignation is a moral virtue. It is a political obligation. But this government has no virtue and no respect for the democratic principles of politics,” the HDP co-chair added.
The HDP co-chair went onto call out corruption in the political system in Turkey, and asserted that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had no right to ask for blessings during a visit to survivors in earthquake-hit Adıyaman province.
“The people of this country will not offer their blessing. They will instead hold them into account,” Sancar said.
Buldan also talked about the scandal, saying Turkey faced shame in the aftermath of the seismic disaster.
“Those who have not been present, those who have not healed the wounds of the earthquake victims, those who have not pulled out victims from under the rubble, those who have left people to starve for 22 days, today prevented our press release planned to be delivered here,” the politician said.
“Once again we observe how this system works,” Buldan said. “We observed the sufferings of earthquake victims, where they survived. But today, here, once more, with our own eyes, we observe how this organisation has not helped victims, how operations work and how orders are received,” she added.
The politician said in the last few days Turkey had learnt that the Red Crescent had not only sold disaster tents, but also blood donations.
“This is a picture of shame. Tents purchased by our, our people’s, earthquake victims’ taxes are sold to earthquake victims for money. This is an indicator of how this system works,” Buldan said.
Buldan added that the Turkish government, including Erdoğan, are obliged to hand in their resignations. “But even if they do not resign, we will send them on their way in the elections, we promise this once again to our people,” the politician said.
Despite the public’s growing outrage against the Red Crescent scandal, the head of the organisation, Kerem Kınık told Hürriyet that given his institution’s success in delivering disaster relief, he would not consider resigning.
Established in 1868, the Red Crescent operates as a state-affiliated organisation, whose head is elected by the organisation’s board of directors. “I am elected,” Kınık told Hürriyet, dismissing calls for his resignation.
The Red Crescent’s board of directors is largely comprised of members close to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The organisation’s former board included the brother, daughter, and the daughter-in-law of the former prime minister Binali Yıldırım, a prominent AKP figure, and Kınık’s son is head of the Red Crescent Youth.