Turkish state seizes foundation linked to Erdogan political rival

Former Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has come under an increased amount of pressure since resigning from the nation’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) last year to establish his own political movement.

On Jan. 21, Turkey’s General Directorate of Foundations took control of the Foundation for Sciences and Arts (BISAV), which Davutoglu co-founded in 1986 to support and bolster the nation’s conservative intellectual community.

“This arbitrary attitude is a grave step that could inflict great harm on our hundreds of years of foundation history and it is also a dangerous action that could affect not only the Foundation for Sciences and Arts, but all foundations in our country as well,” read the Jan. 21 statement of Mustafa Ozel, a founding chair of the BISAV board of regents.

In response, the General Directorate of Foundations defended its appointment of three officials to oversee the management of BISAV, stating on its website: “This is not a trustee appointment. This action is to protect the legal character of the Foundation for Sciences and Arts, its tangible assets and establishment objectives.”

The move comes after Sehir University, another institution spearheaded by Davutoglu, was turned over to the state-run Marmara University in December due to financial issues cited by the Higher Education Board.

Both state seizures coincide with Davutoglu’s establishment of the Future Party, or Gelecek Partisi (GP), last month. Through his new political platform, Davutoglu seeks to challenge longtime ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by appealing to conservative voters disenchanted with rising polarization and economic turbulence in Turkey after nearly 18 years of AKP rule.

The latest polls place support for the former prime minister in the single digits, and observers believe his path to becoming a formidable threat to Erdogan’s leadership will face many obstacles, as evidenced by the swift takeover of two institutions central to Davutoglu’s conservative vision.

“This sends a message to the entire Islamist camp that if they try to go against the regime, there’s a price to pay,” Berk Esen, an assistant professor of international relations at Bilkent University in Ankara, told Al-Monitor.

Read the full story on Al Monitor.