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Turkey’s Diyanet invested over $90 million for facility in US: opposition MP

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Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) and the Turkey Diyanet Foundation (TDV) have invested more than $90 million in a facility in the United States that was opened in 2016, the Sözcü daily reported on Thursday, citing an opposition lawmaker.

Turhan Çömez, deputy group chairman of the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party, on Thursday talked to Sözcü about the Diyanet Center of America (DCA), located near Washington D.C., in the state of Maryland, and criticized the Diyanet for operating a giant complex in the US and financially mismanaging it when Turks are battling economic problems at home.

The DCA includes an 879-square-meter mosque that can accommodate 3,000 worshippers, a community building, a guesthouse and residential houses as well as a swimming pool, a Turkish bath, a conference hall and a restaurant serving Turkish cuisine.

The İYİ MP said the facility’s annual expenses were $5.1 million, with a yearly loss of $2.5 million, adding that the employees receive $700,000 in annual salaries. He argued that the facility, which is currently worth $90 million, is running at such a loss due to “poor management.”

“Why does the Diyanet own villas, hotels, a bath and a swimming pool in the US? … These were probably built by the Diyanet Foundation. In the end, it’s the Turkish citizens’ money. Why did you spend millions on these [facilities] while people in Turkey are hungry and miserable?” Çömez said, addressing Diyanet officials and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Over the past several years the country has been suffering from a deteriorating economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country where dissent is suppressed and opponents are jailed on politically motivated charges.

As with all government institutions, the Diyanet underwent major purges of non-loyalist employees following a failed coup in July 2016.

Benefiting from a bigger budget than most government agencies, it also operates a sizable network of mosques around the world. These mosques and foundations have been accused of acting as Erdoğan’s propaganda tools and involvement in spying on his critics. Through its foundation, the Diyanet provides funding and appoints imams, who are public servants on the government payroll, to the overseas mosques.

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