Indonesian National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian recently revealed that he had evidence on illegal funds from Indonesian Humanitarian Relief (IHR) led by scholar Bachtiar Nasir, allegedly used to support logistics of a pro-ISIS group in Syria through the Turkish IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation. The funds are withdrawn from the account of the Foundation Justice for All (KUS) through an employee of an Indonesian national bank (BNI Syariah), Islahudin Akbar.
Tito Karnavian said this to members of House Commission III while telling the beginning of an investigation of alleged money laundering and misappropriation of funds belonging to the KUS Foundation that causes Bachtiar Nasir becomes a suspect in a legal case. Therefore, reporter of Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) had a teleconference conversation with Hüseyin Oruç, Deputy President of IHH, regarding this issue. Here’s the following interview:
MINA: The IHR (Indonesian Humanitarian Relief) chief is Bachtiar Nasir who is now under investigation for money laundering case, and the police have linked this to IHH. What is your relationship with the group? and what is your relationship with Nasir?
Hüseyin: Actually I don’t know too much detail about this person, but in general I can say we are collaborating with hundreds of different organizations all over the world. What ever we are doing, what ever we are collaborating with the people on the ground for the Syrians especially, everything is very transparent. What ever the support that came from an organization, from the different countries, some of them are even from Indonesia, and some of them are from the West, not only from Islamic countries, not only from Islamic organizations and Islamic NGOs, also we are collaborating with some non-Islamic organizations, and some UN bodies; whatever is coming to IHH, need to come to a bank account, whatever reach the bank account of the IHH, will be registered and we will say (in the registration) that we receive the receipt of the money for that project, and then we do the work of the project on the ground, and then we give the feedback of the project from where we have purchase the project items, the document of the purchase, and all legal document of the mission and also we support the project report with pictures and videos.
No one can say anything about the work of the IHH. All parts of the projects inside Syria and inside Turkey are very clear and very transparent. And what has happened is that IHH has been the leading organization on the ground. Some of the organizations are working with us. But some of them are coming to Turkey just to say salaam (greeting) to us, but then they are trying to do something themselves. Many things like this happened. For all our colleagues all our friends, don’t cross the border to the Syrian side, if you want to see your project let us arrange all legal package to Syria, and we can organize this, under the supervision of the Turkish government, we can organize it. But if someone is using a different way, if they are using the name of IHH, also whenever we learn something like this happens, we are acting against them, and we will stop working with them. And the same thing happened with this organization probably.
MINA: So have there been a lot of people who cross to Syria carrying the name of IHH without you knowing about it?
Hüseyin: Some of them of course, if they (other NGO members) are crossing to Syria, we know them, and all of them are registered and all of their permission is taken care of by IHH from the Turkish authority. Another (way they do) is they are using the name of IHH, even when we are not aware that they are crossing to the Syrian side.
MINA: Some Indonesian media said that the IHH would sue the Indonesian police over the statement. Is that true? Have you made that statement formally?
Hüseyin: Actually we have not done anything. And we don’t know any detailed information about that. But if something happens, our lawyers are ready, and they will respond, all of us will respond, what is the case and what are the details about the case, and then we will ask all IHH side on the Syrian project. Everything can be responded easily from the IHH side.
MINA: What do you plan to do in addressing this issue then?
Hüseyin: The best way is not to wait for something legal from Indonesia; we will send our lawyers to Indonesia to talk with the authorities and these people. We need to clarify whatever has been spoken against the IHH from the beginning. Still the need of the people in Syria is huge and we need to continue, also we need to take care of whatever is spoken against the IHH from the beginning; we need (audio unclear) and we need to solve it. We need the support of all the Indonesian brothers and sisters to fill the needs of the Syrian brothers and sisters.
MINA: What would you like to say to our Police Chief Tito Karnavian?
Hüseyin: It is very simple. This is not new for the IHH. We are very active on the ground. We have even organized the Flotilla for Gaza. For that IHH is a very well organization. And a very, very transparent organization. If there is any question mark in mind, you can approach us, you can write to us and we are very ready to answer all the questions. I only want to remind one thing. Please don’t do anything to stop the work of the humanitarian organization because the Syrian children, the Syrian women, the Syrian widows the Syrian orphans the Syrian people need all the support of the Islamic ummah. Please don’t be a part of any rumor. If there is a question, IHH is ready to answer directly. We can host anyone from Indonesia to explain how IHH is working, also the Turkish authority are ready to listen to these kinds of questions about the IHH or any Turkish organization on the ground. We are very open, we are very transparent, and we are ready to co operate with all international organizations all international bodies and all authorities in Indonesia.
MINA: Because the video shows IHR sticker on IHH boxes, that is why people are thinking this way. What do you say?
Hüseyin: Ah maybe, maybe it was with us, maybe it was not with us, anybody can produce something like this because the name IHH is like a visa to go to Syria. Maybe someone tried to misused the name of IHH maybe we did co operate with them for some sort of way, I don’t know too much details, that is why I need to know the names of those accused for the case.
MINA: A lot of media here are wondering about what really happened in 2014, when IHH was said to be smuggling weapons to Syria, can you explain to us what that was really about?
Hüseyin: Yes, also the same thing happened, three years ago 2014, some media in Turkey have accused the IHH, saying that IHH is supporting the rebel and they are smuggling some weapon to them. Again we have followed this news the same way; again we found that the news was fake. It was done by another supporter of the regime (in Syria). They want to stop the support to Syria. They are accusing not only IHH, whoever is working inside Syria, supporting the Syrian children, they are facing this kind of thing and that happens in the media. Regarding this accusation to the IHH, our lawyers have chased (justice?) against this media institutions, TV news and radios. And this news has been taken away from the newspapers and the magazines and the court have decided that all of this accusation is baseless. Whoever did something against the IHH were punished to pay some compensation to IHH, and all this case have been finished and closed on the favor of IHH.
MINA: Then what happened in 2016 when IHH’s office was raid by the police and some media mentioned that IHH has links with al Qaeda?
Hüseyin: Again, maybe only these two have been mention in the past years. Again the same thing happened, some people, some officials in the police came to IHH office, they had come in the border area, not in Istanbul, not the headquarter, in border, but in Kilis office. The police came and they collected the IHH’s computers, but after a few hours, they came to us, and the prosecutors said that it was wrong, it was wrong information, and all of the computers and documents of the IHH have been given back, and there was no any case against the IHH. But the same happened unfortunately; the media sometimes is very dirty. Probably I don’t know if you are following this or not, Turkey is facing a lot of difficulty now; with some group of the people they are called FETO. This is a very old movement in Turkey but they have tried to make a military coup against the government in Turkey. Now the media and the police are leaning that they have too much relations with this movement, and they are trying to make something against the IHH, even at that time the prosecutor stopped everything and apologized to IHH. Now we are realizing all these people who are trying things against the IHH, belong to FETO. Alhamdulillah now all these people have lost their power (audio unclear), for the last few months we were very angry, and now there is no one creating rumors against the IHH. When they lost their power in Turkey, probably the power with the same (audio unclear) and the same group is trying to create the same rumor in Indonesia, and also in other countries, this kind of rumors might reoccur. But we are very clear. we are very transparent from all these accusations.
MINA: So, how is your relationship with the government itself right now?
Hüseyin: IHH is the leading relief organization in Turkey, it is the biggest organization in Turkey, under the supervision of the government of Turkey, and when you are committed to the humanitarian sector, of course we have a very good relation with the government. But we are a civil society, they are the government, we are under the supervision of them, but IHH from the beginning is an independent organization. We are not the government’s organization. We are civilians, and IHH has a very good support from the people, and we are not sending (help) for the government, we are sending (help) to the people of Turkey. Only 1/5 of (audio unclear) describe, how the influence of the IHH is with the society. Last year, we have received more than 1 million donation from the people of Turkey. And Alhamdulillah we have thousands of volunteers, maybe to give you another figure, very recently we have organized a land convoy from different cities of Turkey to the border area, for the Aleppo support, more than 80000 people have attended our program. The people are supporting IHH not only financially; also in the form of public pressure, we have a very good support from the people of Turkey. And when you have that much power on the ground, of course our relation with the government is very balanced, and we have some special permission for humanitarian work and whoever comes they can see themselves to cross borders we have a special permission from the government. Whatever IHH is doing for Syria, it is under the control and supervision of the Turkish authorities.
MINA: I understand that IHH has special permission to help Syria just like what you said, but how difficult is it to deliver help to Syria?
Hüseyin: Actually we have a very long border and two borders are open. It is not difficult. The only difficulty begins when the help arrives in Syria, the sectarian division, the internal conflict there is huge. You need to be very powerful inside Syria. The most important thing for all the people on the ground is they need to trust and respect you. This is the only way to work in Syria. From IHH’s side Alhamdulillah we receive very good respect and very good trust. The whole members of the Syrian people support IHH. Of course it is dangerous, but not difficult, (audio unclear), IHH has special tax exemption and border clearance from the government. Not only IHH, many other organizations have similar exceptions in Turkey. And our work in Syria is not too easy but not too difficult.
MINA: But do the help sometimes fall into the wrong hands, do that happen sometimes?
Hüseyin: From outside no, we are working inside Syria with a team, with our Turkish team and men on the ground, and we are supervising what they are doing. And we have never ever given the relief to someone else. Our relief is reaching the people directly, we know where they are, these relief items, and all the items that we are distributing in Syria are reported. Easily we can say how much items we have delivered to Syria and who have benefited from this. If someone wants to see what is going on from the IHH’s side it is very easy. But in Syria, because of the lack of security we can see many organizations packages are on the markets, especially UN packages food parcels and other kitchen materials can be seen on the market. It is no shock to see hundreds of food parcels on the market. But I easily can say that for IHH items, this kind of case is very minimal, the help is given directly from IHH to the people, but that can happen in any case. In every conflict region, (audio unclear) when we deliver help for the people, maybe these people can sell them on the market, and other people can purchase them, but for the IHH’s side, this incident is very limited, and we are very confident of that.
MINA: Is it possible for IHH or any other NGO that is helping Syria to be neutral in helping the victims in Syria?
Hüseyin: We need to be neutral. How can I make differentiations among the people? Whenever I am reaching inside Syria, we are distributing for all. And we don’t have the right to make some distinctions among the people, if there are victims in an area, we will reach them. Wherever IHH goes, in every part of the region, even the education program in Aleppo, everybody has seen how IHH is working. The United Nations, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Federation, ICRC, and all Syrians saw how IHH worked on the ground. And also after this education project, Stefan de Mistura, the special representative of the United Nations thanked IHH. What IHH have done there, there were some changing of some people in the Shiite villages, from Aleppo to Idlib side. We have organized all the moving of the Shiite people and the Shiite people have been relieved by the IHH. We have distributed food parcel program, we have keep them in safe, and we have medicine to them, and safely we have brought them to regime-controlled areas. Even for these people we are very neutral and we are treating all the people on the ground as a human being. And all IHH people believe that it is our responsibility and we don’t make differentiation between the people. The bottom line is, we need to work in a proper way and we need to respect the people not based on their race, not based on their religion, only for the reason that they are human beings. If they are human beings we need to help them.
MINA: How are the Syrian people doing right now? What do they need most and how can we help them?
Hüseyin: They are suffering too much. Still they hey are suffering too much. Maybe now there is a ceasefire, Alhamdulillah it is better than before, at least bombs are not raining on their heads, but still there are breakings on the ceasefire, people are suffering because of this. People are suffering because of the lack of their basic needs. Just on the border area of turkey, almost one million people are there in a very, very difficult condition, they are in tents, and the tents are very old, their conditions are very difficult, Alhamdulillah now the winter is finishing but in winter last month, it was very cold and there were a lot of snow, the people were suffering too much, they are in great basic humanitarian needs. They need everything. They need shelter they need food, they need health care, they need medicines, they need clothes, everything is needed on the ground. On the other side maybe we can talk about the education. There is a huge need for their education. The children are not attending school for the past 6 years, this is an obstacle, and today (audio unclear), from almost one million children who are living in opposition controlled area, only 10 % of these children are attending school, still more than 90% of the Syrian children are not attending school. It will create a huge problem for the future of Syria. And not only Syria, it will be a big problem for the whole ummah and for all humanity. We need to do something. We need to educate the Syrian generation for the future of all of us.
MINA: What about ISIS? How are they doing right now? Have we finally been able to defeat ISIS, have we neutralized them, what is happening right now?
Hüseyin: Unfortunately it is the biggest problem of the Islamic ummah today, especially in the region, they have created a huge problem. And we are realizing the real face of ISIS. How they have been born, how some people some government supported them, how these countries open the ways for them, and already we have watched what is happening on the ground how they have supporters in different means, and how the external actors, westerners easterners have created a big problem for the Islamic ummah. All of these have been seen directly by the people. And now the operation against ISIS is going on. Turkey especially is supporting some opposition Syrian groups and the Turkish army is also a part of the operation. And after al-bab has been cleared from ISIS, now at least the border areas are much more safer than before. But still ISIS is very big problem for the Syrians.(NMT/RE1/RS05)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)