The George Soros Open Society Foundations announced it plans to end its operations in Turkey, most likely in response to accusations from Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the Hungarian-born billionaire investor and philanthropist is dividing and destroying whole nations.
In a speech a week ago, Erdoğan attacked jailed human rights activist Osman Kavala, adding: “And who is behind him? The famous Hungarian Jew Soros. This is a man who assigns people to divide nations and shatter them. He has so much money and he spends it this way.”
Open Society Foundations on Monday issued a statement saying: “Faced with an increasingly hostile political environment and a number of baseless accusations, the Open Society Foundation in Turkey has decided to cease its operations in Turkey.”
The statement continued: “Since its founding in 2001, the Foundation has conducted its activities in compliance with the laws of Republic of Turkey. The Foundation supported Turkey becoming an EU candidate in 2004, which was commended by the Turkish government, women’s rights across Turkey, and education and employment for the Roma minority in Turkey. The Foundation’s activities have been regularly monitored, and audited, by the Ministry of Interior and the General Directorate of Foundations.”
President of the Open Society Foundations Patrick Gaspard said: “We received the news with regret, but we understand fully the decision by the Board of Directors in Turkey. The accusations are groundless, cynical, and politically motivated. They have made it impossible for the Foundation to continue the important work it does supporting civil society groups, academics, and others who advocate for a democratic and open society in Turkey.”
OSF has been under an investigation by Turkey’s interior ministry, which accused it of being behind the 2013 anti-Erdoğan protests that resulted in clashes with police at Isranbul’s Gezi Park. According to a Guardian report, Hakan Altinay, one of the OSF founders in Turkey, was detained along with 12 other individuals 10 days ago on charges of trying to overthrow the government by encouraging mass protests.