Turkish rescue association faces legal evacuation from Istanbul headquarters
AA PhotoThe Istanbul Governor’s Office has ordered the non-profit Search and Rescue Association (AKUT) to move out of the building it rented for 49 years on the grounds of problems with the right of passage, but the organization’s head has claimed the decision is politically motivated rather than a legal dispute.
In a Oct. 12 letter sent to AKUT’s headquarters in the Esentepe neighborhood of the Şişli district of Istanbul, the governor’s office realty bureau notified the NGO that its “advance permit cannot be transferred to the right of passage” and that the association’s administration should leave the building within 15 days or face eviction:
In response, AKUT’s founding chair, Nasuh Mahruki, a famous mountain climber who is widely known in Turkey for his volunteer rescue work and social projects, posted a tweet and shared a Facebook post on Oct. 18 showing the letter and claiming that the decision from the governor’s office was taken after he appeared on a pro-government TV show and made arguments against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent complaints about the Lausanne Treaty.
“The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is using state power through illegal, unlawful and unethical ways against AKUT claiming that I insulted the president and threatened him while arguing about the issue of Greek islands with a pro-government moderator and guest on a pro-government TV show,” said Mahruki in his posts.
He also said they had received information that the government had taken a decision around a month ago “to pressure AKUT and suspend me from AKUT’s chairperson position.” Mahruki pleaded for solidarity from the organization’s supporters, calling on them to “protect Turkey’s AKUT from the AKP’s arbitrary, illegal and irresponsible attacks.”
Founded in 1996, AKUT is the country’s biggest rescue operation NGO and gained widespread acclaim thanks to its responses during natural disasters, especially its efforts in saving lives after the 1999 Marmara Earthquake that claimed over 17,000.