old boat

Turkey and The Netherlands ‘mutual agreement to withdraw’ head of Diyanet from the Netherlands

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that Turkey has recalled the head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Türkiye Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı or short Diyanet) organisation in the Netherlands after accusations of informing the Turkish state about Dutch citizens opposing the Turkish government. A few weeks ago the Turkish daily Hürriyet revealed that the Diyanet gathered intelligence and prepared reports on alleged Gülenists in several countries including the Netherlands. The files included photos of individuals allegedly linked to the Gülen movement.

In a press release the Dutch diyanet Islamitische Stichting Nederland (ISN) denied the accusations and stated that no visitor of mosques, no board member and no imam has been requested to provide intelligence or has reached out to ISN. They repeated this two days later in a new press release. However, the head of the Diyanet in the Netherlands, Yusuf Acar, stated on 14 December on Dutch TV (after accusations in the Dutch daily Telegraaf) that he (and only he) gathered public information and that he ‘drew up a list based on information available on the Internet […] by searching for “Holland Fetö”.’ Fetö stands for ‘Fethullah Terrorist Organisation'; used by the Turkish state to refer to Hizmet or the Gülen movement. Allegedly, the list includes several members of the Christian Democratic party CDA, which has a large Turkish membership. CDA leader Sybrand Buma has demanded Acar be deported. ‘This is a bizarre and unacceptable way for a member of the embassy staff to behave.’

The Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs, Koenders, then summoned Acar, who is also the Turkish ambassador in the Netherlands, to make clear this was unacceptable. ‘We’re going to ask for clarification about this. In addition, we are going to engage with the Turkish authorities and the Diyanet organization in Ankara. That’s part of our policy of challenging every incident that concerns the “long arm” with our Turkish counterparts.’

In a letter to the Dutch Parliament Koenders stated that handing over such information to the Turkish authorities ‘is an undesirable and unacceptable form of interference in the lives of Dutch citizens by a diplomatic representative.’ In this letter Koenders also stated that in the meeting with Acar, they reaced ‘a mutual agreement to withdraw’ Acar from the Netherlands.

In recent years the Diyanet has been heavily criticized in the Netherlands for being an agent of the Turkish state, mixing religion with politics and hindering integration in the Netherlands by emphasizing loyalty of Turkish-Dutch citizens to Turkey and by not having Dutch speaking imams.

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