Far-right leader Devlet Behçeli on Tuesday targeted civil campaigners that had raised substantial amounts of funds for earthquake victims, and advised that looters are denaturalised or, if refugees, removed from Turkey.
Bahçeli, the head of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ally, made a brief statement about twin earthquakes that hit 10 southern provinces in Turkey on 6 February, then only appeared in public again six days later, as many began to question his whereabouts.
The far-right leader made a furious come back early on Tuesday with a speech to his party’s parliamentary group.
The politician said he did not want to make “a show”, and accused others of “abusing” the disaster, adding that he had chosen not to make public appearances that could disrupt rescue work in earthquake hit areas.
Bahçeli, who has not yet visited his home city Osmaniye, heavily destroyed by the seismic disaster, said that he had been waiting for an appropriate time to go to the earthquake-hit areas.
Far-right leader Devlet Behçeli said that people who complain about the state institution’s failure to provide rescue and relief work on time have “corrupted blood”, “lack character”, and are “miserable collaboratives of foreign powers positioned inside the domestic occupation frontline”.
Bahçeli targeted two civil initiatives that raised substantial funds for earthquake victims at a time when people are wary of making donations to failing state-controlled organisations. One of those institutions is Ahbap (Pal), headed by musician Haluk Levent, has seen enormous success in reaching those in need across the country.
The organisation raised a TL 850 million (more than $45 million) in humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in the week following the disaster. On order to prevent corruption allegations, Levent announces all sizeable donations, and shares invoices of all expenses, on his Twitter account, that is followed by eight million people. The organisation is also working with one national and one international audit firms to ensure transparency.
The other civil initiative that faced the wrath of Bahçeli on Tuesday is Babala TV, headed by popular nationalist YouTuber Oğuzhan Uğur. The YouTube channel which has a large network on internet platforms raised TL29 million ($1,538,000) by February 10, when the initiative was attacked by government supporters.
“Collecting donations through pal networks by sidelining the state and creating a parallel line in this context, means somehow putting shadow on the state’s credibility, and is a mistake that should not be given credit in our eyes,” Bahçeli said, targeting both initiatives.
“What is there the state cannot calm down and provide that those supporters of Ahbap and Babala find the space to flap their wings? Those impostors should not be given time in televisions from now on,” he added.
Levent responded to Bahçeli’s comments, saying that lawmakers from the MHP visited one of the tent cities Ahbap set up only a day ago.
The activist-musician once again repeated that their initiative has been cooperating with Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), adding that they have asked for appointments from all leaders of the country, including President Erdoğan, to discuss disaster-relief efforts.
The far-right leader also mentioned reports of looting in the disaster area, many of which have been proved to be false or remain unverified. In most cases, people accuse refugees in Turkey, particularly the Syrians living in the area, of robberies and looting attempts in the midst of a disaster and reports of violence against the refugees are on the rise.
Bahçeli said the government should evaluate “the denaturalisation of ‘rascals’ who engage in looting and pillage, and to send back those looters immediately to the homelands if they are refugees”.
“Those who are fed take orders from abroad, those who hideously push the button for provocations, would be smashed under the iron fist of the state. Our nation has been seeing vileness,” the politician said.