Billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation said Monday it has decided to cease operations in Turkey, saying “baseless claims” in the media “made it impossible” for the foundation to carry out its work.
It also said recent investigations by the Interior Ministry had attempted to show a link, which the foundation denied, to mass protests in Turkey five years ago.
The foundation said it would apply for the legal liquidation and winding up of the company’s operations as soon as possible.
Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed Soros for supporting Osman Kavala, a former business tycoon who is in prison awaiting trial on charges of inciting the 2013 Gezi Park riots.
“The person (Kavala), who financed terrorists during the Gezi incidents, is currently in prison. And who is behind him? The famous Hungarian Jew George Soros. This is a man who was assigned to divide nations and shatter them. He has so much money and he is spending it in these ways,” Erdoğan said.
Kavala was nicknamed the “Turkish Soros” for his connections with the Hungarian-American tycoon. He is known for his close ties to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a party linked to the PKK terrorist group.
Over a dozen people linked to Kavala, including Open Society Foundation Chairman Ali Hakan Altınay, were detained on Nov. 16 on charges of trying to spread the 2013 riots and “creating chaos with the ultimate intent to overthrow the government.”
Turkish National Police issued a statement at the time of the arrests saying Kavala sought to overthrow the government by force through the Gezi Park incidents and used the Open Society and Anadolu Kültür to finance and organize the riots. Suspects “under a hierarchy” held meetings and brought in activists from abroad to stoke riots, police sources said.
On May 31, 2013, Turkish police intervened in what began as a peaceful protest against the redevelopment of Gezi Park adjacent to Taksim Square at the heart of Istanbul. What followed were nationwide riots that led to over 20 deaths, the torching of cars and destruction of public property in a matter of a few days.
Responsibility for the riots has been linked to the PKK and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), along with fridge factions linked to them. Turkish authorities are also investigating the fact that Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ)-linked police officers headed crowd control operations and may have been responsible for the escalation of violence.
The Open Society Foundations was founded by Soros in 1979. The grant-making network operates in more than 100 countries, with 26 national and regional offices, and lists annual expenditures exceeding $940 million.