U.S.-based aid group forced to shut down operations in Turkey

by WorldTribune Staff, March 9, 2017

An America-based aid group that was assisting Syrian refugees in Turkey has been forced to shut down its operations by the Ankara government.

Mercy Corps, one of the world’s largest humanitarian groups, was informed by the Turkish interior ministry that it no longer had permission to work in Turkey, the Telegraph reported on March 8.

Turkey has taken in some 3 million Syrians since 2011.

The Portland, Oregon-based aid group said Ankara gave no reason for the sudden halt. Mercy Corps had worked from Turkey in close cooperation with the government since 2012.

“Our hearts are broken by this turn of events, which comes after five years of cooperation with the government of Turkey and other local partners,” a statement by Mercy Corps said.

Mercy Corps, which receives funding from the U.S., UK and EU, said it spent $34 million in Turkey in 2016.

The Turkish press has carried allegations against Mercy Corps and other international groups in recent months, claiming that the NGOs were supporting armed groups against Turkey’s government.

Mercy Corps denied the allegations, saying it is a strictly non-political group.

“We have every confidence in the impartiality and the integrity of our operations. We’re not a political organization and our reason for being is to deliver assistance to civilians who need it the most,” said Christine Nyirjesy Bragale, the group’s director of media relations.

The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shut down hundreds of NGOs since a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

Critics say Erdogan has used the coup as an excuse to crack down on civil society and stifle dissenting voices.

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