A little more IHH…
Istanbul – Everyone knows IHH. The Turkish aid organization that sent a flotilla of ships full of humanitarian aid and construction materials to breach the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010.
Many accuse the organization of having links to extremist groups such as Hamas. Others see them more simply, as an Islamic charity that claims to work in 126 countries around the world.
This week I wrote about IHH’s efforts in Syria for Foreign Policy Magazine.
While IHH denies being given favorable treatment by the government, it serves as an important part of Turkey’s soft-power strategy around the world. In recent weeks, members of its 50-person relief team began crossing into Syria to offer food and medical assistance in stricken areas such as Aleppo, Idlib, and Hama provinces. IHH has also moved a “mobile kitchen” into Syria at the Bab Salam border crossing, and provides food for the thousands of refugees waiting along the border to enter Turkey when new camps are completed. Through these steps, IHH appears to be bolstering Turkey’s image as a supporter of the uprising — even as Ankara hesitates about taking more aggressive action to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
While the organization claims not to have any special relationship with the Turkish government, it is no mistake they are one of the few NGOs given permission by the country’s interior ministry to work in the border area. The Turkish government likes to keep a tight hand on everything that goes on and IHH appears to be an organization it can rely on.
As can be expected, there are many of rumors about IHH’s activities in Syria. Everything from close connections to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to distributing aid provided by other organizations and claiming credit for it.
I am sure this won’t be the last we hear of IHH’s work in Syria.