A leaked document from the archives of a Turkish foundation run by the family of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have revealed the foundation’s work to promote political Islam in the Netherlands, using the funds of the Turkish government.
According to the two-page document, titled Declaration of Partnership (Ortaklık Beyannamesi), the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA) established a joint project with the Rotterdam-based Nederlandse Islamitische Federatie (NIF) in June 2016. The funding was covered by the Turkish government’s diaspora agency, the Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB).
TÜGVA is led by the president’s son Bilal Erdoğan and works closely with Turkey’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Organization (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı, MIT).
The NIF subscribes to the National View (Milli Görus) ideology, the Turkish equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood that aims to promote political Islam in the governance of the country. President Erdoğan also comes from the same background and has aggressively been investing in expanding the reach of political Islamist ideology in Turkey and beyond, using government resources.
The declaration bears the signature of Nejla Erdoğan, the president of the National View Women’s Organization in the south of the Netherlands, on behalf of the NIF, while Salih Çil, the then-general manager of TÜGVA, signed the document for the foundation. Çil was also authorized to guide the joint project.
The project is one of many pursued by TÜGVA and its sister organizations to help promote Erdoğan’s firebrand Islamist ideology in Europe, where some 5 million Turks live. Roughly half of them are ardent supporters of President Erdoğan.
The two-page leaked document on the partnership:Tugva_YTB_Dutch_National_View_joint_partnership
The Turkish government’s intrusive campaign sparked a diplomatic crisis in 2017 when the Dutch government refused to give permission to Turkish ministers to appear at campaign rallies in Rotterdam to drum up support for constitutional amendments that would empower Erdoğan with imperial-like presidential powers.
Despite the ban, one Turkish minister, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, a hard-core Islamist, crossed into the Netherlands from Germany after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s plane was not given clearance to land on March 11, 2017. She was expelled under a police escort, prompting clashes between Erdoğan supporters and the Dutch police.
Erdoğan likened the Dutch to the Nazis for refusing to allow his ministers to speak at rallies in the Netherlands, calling the Dutch “the remnants of Nazis and fascists.” He vowed that the Dutch would “pay a price” for its actions.
The Dutch government, led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte, remained defiant despite Erdoğan’s threats and said it might take further action if Erdoğan did not tone down his inflammatory rhetoric.
Last year President Erdoğan struck a deal with Oğuzhan Asiltürk, leader of the National View and chairman of the National Vision Foundation, in order to expand his support base and woo the rest of the Islamists who questioned his rule. Asiltürk made several public statements in support of Erdoğan after the two met in private. The project was dealt a blow when Asiltürk passed away at age 86 on October 1, 2021.
The Erdoğan government filled many civil service positions with people with a National View background after a massive purge in 2016 in which nearly 150,000 people were dismissed from public service by presidential decrees issued by Erdoğan.
The Turkish president also made his Islamist buddy, Şaban Dişli, a non-career diplomat and a former politician, ambassador to the Netherlands in September 2018.
At the time the joint declaration was made with the Dutch Islamist group, İsmail Emanet, a close friend of Erdoğan’s son Bilal, was president of TÜGVA. He now serves as a member of the foundation’s High Advisory Board along with Bilal.
The authenticity of the memo was verified by Enes Eminoğlu, the current head of TÜGVA, who admitted that somebody from inside had leaked the document.
The NIF is not the only Turkish Islamist outfit catered to by TÜGVA. The Netherlands Diyanet Foundation (Hollanda Diyanet Vakfı) featured TÜGVA’s Emanet as a keynote speaker in January 2018. Emanet talked about the future prospects of Turkish Muslim youth in Europe.
During the row with the Netherlands in March 2017, Emanet mobilized young Turks to gather in front of the Dutch Consulate General in Istanbul to protest the campaign ban in the Netherlands.