According to the Turkish media (June 2012), IHH head Bülent Yildirim was under investigation for having clandestinely transferred funds to Al-Qaeda.

Issued on: 27/06/2012 Type: Article

Information published in the Turkish media about the investigation of the IHH

1. According to items appearing in the Turkish media in the middle of June 2012, the Turkish justice system initiated an investigation of IHH head Bülent Yildirim, suspected of transferring funds to Al-Qaeda. The Turkish newspaper Haberturk, quoted by other media,[1] reported that the investigation was being covertly conducted by the offices of the special prosecutor in Istanbul and Diyarbakir. It added that the investigation focused on the IHH's transfer of funds to Al-Qaeda and on IHH activities in the Middle East (Islamgundem website, June 15, 2012).

2. IHH head Bülent Yildirimdenied his organization had transferred money to Al-Qaeda. He claimed that for years the IHH has operated as a worldwide humanitarian organization. According to Yildirim, it provides assistance to the needy regardless of race, religion or language. He called the media reports "psychological warfare." He his organization was definitely not under investigation and that he hoped the Turkish authorities would "clarify the issue." He added that the media reports about an investigation reflected attempts "to defame, isolate, and take revenge on us" (Islamgundem website, June 16; and the Dogruhaber website, June 18, 2012).

The IHH's double identity

3. The IHH is a radical Islamic Turkish organization whose ideology is anti-American, anti-Western and anti-Israeli. It is an important factor in the international coalition waging the campaign to delegitimize Israel. It had a prominent role in the Mavi Marmara flotilla, which ended with a violent confrontation between Turkish operatives and IDF soldiers. Its central role was manifested by purchasing three ships, the Mavi Marmara among them; in addition, its operatives were at the center of the violent confrontation with the IDF. The IHH also made it possible for the coalition thatsent the flotilla to enjoy Turkish governmental backing.

4. The accusation against the IHH of providing support for Al-Qaeda, including financial aid, is firmly rooted in fact. Reliable information indicated that in the 1990s and early 2000s the IHH had contacts with global jihad networks in the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans, and provided them humanitarian assistance and logistic support (including the recruitment of operatives, the transfer of funds). However, during the Mavi Marmara affair, the Turkish government and the IHH repeatedly denied the organization's jihadist side, emphasizing, for obvious reasons, its humanitarian aspect. Therefore, at this point it is not clear whether or not an investigation of the IHH has actually been initiated, and if it has, for what reason. In our assessment, the information published in the Turkish media may reflect an internal Turkish power struggle also manifested during the Mavi Marmara affair.

5. In any event, publicizing IHH funding of Al-Qaeda alongside Bülent Yildirim's insistence that the organization deals with humanitarian issues clearly reflects the organization's double identity:

1) It is a humanitarian organization, and undertakes a wide variety of humanitarian projects in Turkey and distressed areas of the world, especially among Islamic communities: the IHH sends shipments of food, has a program to help orphans, deals with education, builds mosques and provides other kinds of humanitarian and social aid (including in regions controlled by organizations affiliated with Al-Qaeda, in Somalia, for example). This past year the IHH provided aid to Syrian refugees.

2) It is also a jihadist organization, radical Islamic, anti-American, anti-West and anti-Semitic.In the past the IHH did in fact support Al-Qaeda and global jihad networks, including financially, and was involved in a terrorist attack against the United States (the 2000 Christmas "millennium attack"). During the past few years the IHH has focused its efforts on propping up Hamas and the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip. After the Americans killed Osama bin Laden in a targeted attack the IHH joined the Turkish Islamist organizations denouncing the United States and representing the killing as "illegal."

6. In our assessment, with Turkey's defiant stance regarding Israel and in view of the legal proceedings Turkey has instituted against four senior Israeli figures involved in the Mavi Marmara affair, the Turkish administration and the IHH can be expected to deny the IHH's jihadist, violent side, and continue to represent the IHH's involvement in the Mavi Marmara flotilla as a manifestation of its humanitarian activities (and thus exaggerate its accusations of Israel's so-called "guilt"). Thus even if the Turkish prosecutors do in fact initiate an investigation of the IHH (which has not yet been verified), in all probability the Erdogan administration, for purely political reasons,will step in to end or minimize it.

7. For an analysis of the IHH's double identity and a portrait of its head, Bülent Yildirim, see the Appendix.

[1] The item was quoted by Hürriyet and appeared on the Islamic website Islamgundem.

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