European Milli Gorus, second largest Turkish-Muslim organization in Europe which oversees more than 500 mosques might have just announced that it no longer supports Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kemal Ergun, the head of the organization just posted a tweet which was interpreted by prominent diaspora figures as a clear sign of withdrawing support from Erdogan’s Ak Party. Such policy could harm Erdogan’s 2023 presidential bid but also have a reverse effect and deal a blow to the credibility of Milli Gorus, experts warn.
“ Assessments over east-west separation does not meet the realities of today. If we have to draw a separation line, it has to be drawn between those respecting human rights and those don’t; those believe in rule of law and those don’t,” tweeted Ergun on Wednesday. Several prominent Turkish diaspora members quickly assessed that the tweet was a clear indication that European Milli Gorus was making an attribution to Turkey’s governing Ak Party which has been accused of human rights violations by the western establishments. A Turkish-German activist with strong connections among Turkish diaspora said she did not believe before that Milli Gorus would draw support from Erdogan but Ergun’s statement is a clear sign of just that.
A senior official at the Cologne headquarters, however, denied that the statement indicates any political stance in an off the record conversation. “There is no need to pull Babacan out of this statement, we (Milli Gorus) have always been bipartisan and never directed our followers to a certain political party (to vote),” said the official.
Former secretary general of European Milli Gorus (IGMG), Mustafa Yeneroglu, served two terms as a Ak Party member in the Turkish Parliament before resigning to join newly founded Deva Party. The head of Deva, Ali Babacan is a former Erdogan ally whom served as a successful finance minister in several Ak Party governments. Yeneroglu has a degree in law and has been heavily criticizing his former party for human rights violations. How much support Babacan’s Deva party would receive is seen crucial as its small vote percentage from conservative constituency could play a deciding role in Turkey’s presidential elections in 2023.
European Milli Gorus or IGMG by its German initials operates more than 500 mosques through out Europe and has large loyal followers among Turkish diaspora. Sudden change in its political stance could harm Erdogan’s support among 3-million Turkish diaspora for his 2023 presidential bid. Erdogan have enjoyed larger support among Turkish diaspora with around 65 percent, a figure much above his support in Turkey. However, prominent members of the diaspora warns that IGMG’s anti-Erdogan stance could have a reverse effect and harm the organization itself. “Erdogan has immense credibility among Turkish diaspora for his fearless fight for the rights of Muslims around the world but also for the rights of the diaspora,” said Germany-based lawyer Elif Yazgin. According to Yazgin, IGMG taking side with Ali Babacan’s Deva Party could cause split among its followers. “Former Ak Party member Yeneroglu joining Deva created mounting reaction against IGMG as he was the secretary general of Igmg,” Yazgin pointed out. She says political stance of the upper management of IGMG could just be disobeyed.
IGMG has come under severe criticism after Ergun and his deputy Bekir Altas attended a video conference with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of secular main opposition CHP, on December 28th. CHP has been disliked by conservative Turks because of its infamous past on Islam. Several members of Turkish diaspora lambasted IGMG after the meeting for attempting to secure support for CHP among conservatives for the upcoming presidential elections.
Turkish diaspora’a largest organization, DITIB, however is a staunch supporter of Erdogan although it refrains from making any statements that could be considered political as it has been under strict state pressure. German authorities smeared DITIB in 2017 with espionage charges which later had to be dropped due to lack of evidence. DITIB runs more than 900 mosques in Germany alone.