Who is Osman Kavala, centerpiece of diplomatic riot Turkey?

Turkey wants to expel ten ambassadors, including the Dutch Marjanne de Kwaastenite. The ten called on Turkey to release political prisoner Osman Kavala. That call was against President Erdogans sore leg and he said it had to have consequences. Who is this businessman and philanthropist, Osman Kavala?

Kavala is accused in Turkey of funding demonstrations in 2013. Last year, following a short-term release, there was a suspicion of involvement in the failed coup in 2016, and 64-year-old Kavala has been in custody since 2017. He contradicts all allegations.

Kavala has been at the head of the non-profit organization Anadolu Kรผltรผr founded by him since 2002. According to its own site, the aim of this cultural organisation is to โ€œbuild bridges between different ethnic, religious and regional groups by sharing culture and art and supporting regional initiativesโ€. Among other things, his organisation is committed to improving the relationship between Turkey and Armenia.

President Erdogan said this about the case and the ambassadors interference:

Founder Kavala is described on the site as someone โ€œsensitive to the challenges of our countryโ€ and who has worked hard โ€œto bring people of different perspectives together to discuss local and international conflictsโ€.

In the 80s and 90s Kavala was active as an entrepreneur and established himself as a socially responsible businessman. According to a profile in The New York Times, he once stopped building a hotel along the coast when it became clear that the beach was an important breeding ground for turtles.

Under the umbrella of the Kavala Group family business, a publishing house was also set up in response to the oppression after the military coup in 1980, and dedicated to social changes in the fields of art, culture and democracy.

When a severe earthquake struck Turkey in 1999, Kavala stopped as a businessman to focus entirely on his work as a benefactor. With the construction of social housing, he played an important role in rebuilding the affected area. He became a philanthropist, known to embassies, international donors and the forefront of civic movements.

โ€œAttention to the Kurdsโ€

As of 2011, he was committed to people from Syria who had fled the civil war there. After visiting a refugee camp on the border with Syria, he was taken from the plane by police in 2017 and arrested. Hes been stuck ever since. Initially, he was accused of funding the Gezi protests in 2013, and in 2020, the indictment that he was involved in the failed coup in 2016.

According to Erik-Jan Zรผrcher, Professor emeritus of Turkish languages and cultures, Kavala became a target for President Erdogan, among other things, by his foundation. โ€œIt is not a political institution, but it is a cultural institution that puts things on the agenda that the Turkish government is struggling to do through activities they organise. The foundation is committed to allowing different ethnicities in Turkey to coexist peacefully. And that automatically means attention to the position of the Kurds and the alawites.โ€

What he says is that it is exceptional for a civil movement like Anadolu Kรผltรผr to receive support from someone with money. โ€œThe business world is normally trying to stay as close to power in Turkey as possible. There are other civil society organisations that represent another Turkey, but they tend to be poor. That made Erdogan harassed him.โ€

โ€œAbode of Sorosโ€

Erdogan again called Kavala a โ€œremnant of Sorosโ€ this week, referring to American-Hungarian businessman George Soros, who, like Kavala, supports numerous social projects. Soros is particularly hated by right-wing radicals because he is an outspoken opponent of nationalist and authoritarian governments.

In addition to the accusation of funding the Gezi protests, Kavala is also accused of being involved in the failed coup in 2016. According to the Turkish government, the influential cleric Fethullah Gรผlen was behind the coup attempt and many of its supporters have become persecuted.

Zรผrcher: โ€œIts certainly not like Kavala is a Gรผlenist either. But it is true that the more liberal people from the Gรผlen corner started supporting him after 2016. They did that because they couldnt do anything and saw someone in him who could bring more freedom to Turkey.โ€

European judges looked at case

The European Court of Human Rights had ordered the Erdogan administration to release Kavala in 2019, because there were no reasons to hold him. โ€œHis arrest is a way to silence a human rights activist,โ€The court ruled. โ€œIt discourages others from speaking out critically and that is crippling in a society.โ€

The Turkish Government has failed to comply with the courts ruling. According to the pro-government newspaper Daily Sabah, Ankara stressed this week that judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are more often not followed, and that it is a double standard of appeal to Turkey alone.

From prison Kavala announced in a statement Friday that she had no confidence in a fair trial. โ€œIm the protagonist in a fictitious charge. And I serve as an example in a case where someone is punished for political reasons. Under these circumstances, I see no possibility of fair trial, and the interrogation and legal defence are pointless.โ€