Charity Behind Gaza Flotilla Had Support from Turkey's Governing Party

(New York Times) Dan Bilefsky and Sebnem Arsu - The Turkish IHH charity that led the Gaza flotilla has extensive connections with Turkey's political elite, and the group's efforts to challenge Israel's blockade of Gaza received support at the top levels of the governing party, Turkish diplomats and government officials said. The IHH has come under attack in Israel and the West for offering financial support to groups accused of terrorism. But in Turkey the group has helped Prime Minister Erdogan shore up support from conservative Muslims ahead of critical elections next year and improve Turkey's standing and influence in the Arab world. The charity's mission, political analysts said, has advanced Erdogan's aim of shifting Turkey's focus to the Muslim East. The government "could have stopped the ship if it wanted to, but the mission to Gaza served both the IHH and the government by making both heroes at home and in the Arab world," said Ercan Citlioglu, a terrorism expert at Bahcesehir University in Istanbul. Many of the 21 people listed on the charity's board have or had close links to the ruling Justice and Development Party. Those ties partly reflect the common agenda of the party and the charity.

2010-07-16 10:14:22

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