Liberal billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations NGO will close up shop in Turkey, saying “groundless claims and speculation” have hindered its work.
The organization announced the news on Monday, days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Soros of stoking protests to divide the country, referring to the elderly liberal financier as that “famous Hungarian Jew Soros.”
Erdogan accused Soros of controlling Turkish opposition figure Osman Kavala, himself accused of financing and organizing anti-government demonstrations in 2013, and being linked to a failed coup attempt in 2016. Kavala is an advisory board member of OSF.
Over a dozen people linked to Kavala were arrested last week, as Erdogan’s crackdown on anyone suspected of involvement with the coup continues.
In a statement released Monday, an Open Society Foundations spokesman refuted Erdogan’s claims. The organization described Erdogan’s apparent attempts to link Soros with protests in 2013 as “not new and untrue,” and said that Erdogan’s “groundless claims and speculation” have “made it impossible” to continue its activities.
A prominent backer of liberal causes worldwide, Soros’ activities have seen him repeatedly draw the ire of nationalists and the right wing. OSF ended its operations in Soros’ native Hungary earlier this year, after Prime Minister Viktor Orban slammed the tycoon for meddling in the nation’s affairs.
After OSF closed its doors in Hungary, the country’s parliament approved the ‘Stop Soros’ law, a piece of legislation introduced by Orban’s Fidesz party that criminalized aid workers and organizations suspected of “enabling illegal immigration.” Liberalizing immigration and border controls has long been one of Soros’ goals, hence the law’s name.
The Open Society Foundations project was started in 1979, with the first non-US foundation opening in Hungary in 1984. The group currently has annual expenditures of over $940 million, operates in over 100 countries across the globe, with 26 national and regional foundations and offices.