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Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) exceeded its 2018 allotted budget by 3 billion TL, with 99 percent of the budget being spent on personnel salaries, according to a recent report by the Court of Accounts.

A report in the daily Cumhuriyet newspaper referencing findings from the Court of Accounts showed that while the Diyanet’s budget for 2018 was set at 5,168,000,000 TL, it spent that entire amount within the first six months of the year. The Diyanet ending up spending 8,453,000,000 TL in 2018, and 99 percent of that was spent on personnel salaries and social security premiums. According to the report, the Diyanet’s 2018 expenditures amounted to 10 percent of last year’s central government budget. The Diyanet’s budgets widely exceeds that of other government ministries.

Critics of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), have said that the party has politicized the Diyanet, which was established in 1924, shortly after the foundation of the Turkish republic. The party has quadrupled the Diyanet’s budget during its tenure, and its 2019 budget was increased by 34 percent compared to the previous year, according to official figures. More than 100,000 people are employed by the Diyanet, which builds and funds mosques all over the world. This has led many to argue that the organization is being instrumentalized by the AKP as a mechanism for soft power.