November 22, 2019 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1488

Turkish NGOs Meet With Jihadi Leaders In Syria, Help Fighters Cross Border, Fundraise For And Organize Events With Hamas, Hizbullah, Sell Jihadi Publications, Raise Money From Schoolchildren In Coordination With Turkish Government

November 22, 2019 | By A. Smith*
Turkey | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1488

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This report will review the terror-related and jihadi activities of nine Turkish NGOs. The activities of these organizations include meeting jihadi leaders in Syria, housing jihadi fighters traveling to Syria, raising money for and organizing events with Hamas and Hizbullah, hosting Hamas leaders at conferences, and spreading jihadi ideology online and via printed matter such as books and magazines.

IHH Sent 6.6 Million Euro To Hamas, Reportedly Helped Jihadis Cross Into Syria, Received Award From Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS)

German intelligence found that the Turkish NGO İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri İnsani Yardım Vakfı ("People's Right And Freedoms Humanitarian Relief Foundation," IHH)[1] had donated 6.6 million euros to Hamas and in 2010 the activities of the organization were banned in Germany. In August 2018 this ban was upheld.[2]

According to a January 2014 report, a jihadi in Reyhanlı, Turkey, a city on the Turkey-Syria border, said: "We could not get into Syria, the crossings these days are very difficult. We were in contact with the Turkish humanitarian organization IHH. They were supposed to bring us to Syria in an ambulance but it didn't happen."[3] In the indictment for a trial opened by the Ankara Attorney General's Office of 26 people regarding membership in Al-Qaeda, a telephone conversation about IHH was discovered. Oğuzhan Gözlemecioğlu, who was  in June 2016 fighting in the ranks of the Islamic State (ISIS) and managing the work of bringing personnel and material to the organization spoke on the phone on September 23, 2013, with another suspect named Yusuf about aid materials to be sent to Syria. Gözlemecioğlu reportedly said: "I can prepare the way for one container or three big trucks of aid material, if necessary I can move the materials with the help of IHH."[4]

On May 15, 2017, it was reported that an IHH representative had received an award on behalf of the organization from Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) at a ceremony arranged for "the secret heroes of the revolutions." The IHH representative went on stage to receive the award from HTS's then leader Hashem Al-Shaykh aka Abu Jaber Al-Shaykh and Syria-based Saudi jihadi cleric Abdullah Al-Muhaysini. Abu Jaber said in a speech at the ceremony: "Our strength is not enough to thank anyone as they deserve."[5] HTS has been a U.S. Treasury Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) since May 31, 2018.[6]

In an anti-Al-Qaeda sweep focused on IHH on January 14, 2014, police raided addresses in the Turkish cities of Van, Adana, Gaziantep, Istanbul, Kilis, and Kayseri, including the IHH bureau in Kilis.[7] Those arrested included İbrahim Şen, Halis Bayancuk, and an IHH employee whose initials were I.I.[8] After his capture in Afghanistan in 2001, İbrahim Şen was held for 27 months in Guantanamo Bay[9] and released in 2003. In the fall of 2008 he was arrested in Van, Turkey, in an Al-Qaeda raid.[10] Halis Bayancuk, who will be discussed in more detail later in this report, was sentenced in June 2018 to 14 years in prison on terrorism charges. Many of the police directors involved in planning this raid were thereafter reassigned.

IHH Raises Money From Turkish Schoolchildren In Coordination With Ministry Of Education

IHH signed an agreement with the Ministry Of Education in 2013, giving IHH permission to raise funds from primary, middle, and high schools, private schools, Quran courses, and pre-schools. In 2013-14, IHH gathered donations from 2,064 classrooms, and in 2016 this increased to 8,848 classrooms. IHH raised about 8 million lira, ($3.7 million based on 2014 exchange rate) in 2014 and about 29 million lira ($10 million based on a 2016 exchange rate) in 2016. One news report said that IHH raised 57 million lira in 3 years (about $16 million based on a 2017 exchange rate), though the timing of this three-year period is not clear.

According to IHH data, in 2019, the campaign continued at 5,363 schools in all 81 provinces of Turkey. The Ministry of Education does not have information on where the donations are or how they have been used. The ministry asked that all institutes be informed in formal writing that the campaign is permitted and will continue at all schools. It was announced in July 2019 that such fundraising would continue for the 2019-2020 school year.[11] In December 2016 it was reported that in doing this fundraising they used envelopes that, referring to the city in Syria, read: "Open the path to Aleppo."[12]

Envelopes that IHH used to raise money in Turkish schools read: "Open the path to Aleppo."


*A. Smith is the director of the Turkish Media Project at MEMRI.


JTTM subscribers can click here to view the full report.


[1], accessed November 18, 2019.

[2], August 22, 2018.

[3],248310, January 14, 2014.

[4], June 14, 2016.

[5], May 15, 2017.

[6], May 31, 2018.

[7], January 17, 2014.

[8], October 14, 2014.

[9], May 15, 2006;, December 26, 2014.

[10], September 1, 2008.

[11], July 28, 2019.

[12], December 20, 2016.

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