President's son defends himself on national television

Son of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and Etnosports Confederation Head Bilal Erdoğan spoke to CNN Turk on Oct. 2. Erdoğan spoke about the Etnospor Culture Festival, which will be organized at Atatürk Airport between October 3-6. In response to criticism about the relationship between the state and non-profit foundations, Erdoğan said that the government does not directly transfer funds to such institutions.

The son of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and Etnosports Confederation Head Bilal Erdoğan was recently hosted for an interview by Ahmet Hakan on CNN Turk. Erdoğan spoke about the Etnospor Culture Festival, which will be organized at Atatürk Airport between October 3-6.

"Please, even if you don't love me, please come to the festival despite me," Bilal Erdoğan said, before discussing the granting of funds from public institutions to the Archery Foundation. "It's impossible for the state to transfer funds to any kind of foundation. At the Manzikert commemorations we told the Ministry of Culture and Tourism to organize a concert, we told the Ministry of Transportation to deal with roads, we told the National Parks Directorate to turn a certain park into an area. The money spent by non-governmental foundations is determined by specific deals. I'm so sorry such beautiful projects are constrained by this."

Stating that many non-governmental organizations receive state support, Bilal Erdoğan said "Where in the world can culture and arts survive without state support? There is nothing more normal than the state supporting these matters. Let's imagine if the state didn't support football in Turkey, could we talk about football then? Turkey confers importance to this and supports it."

In his speech, Bilal Erdoğan also added: "The state grants beneficial treatment including public or tax exempt status to some non-governmental organizations such as associations and foundations. Why does the state do this? The idea is that by granting this status, organizations now have the authority to serve on our behalf. This means we will support the foundations by providing joint projects in the areas we serve. Because especially in matters that sensitive to society, the state sends social services experts to deal with the harmed party. But when you can get volunteers there, having their energy on the side of the state is something that is done all around the world.

"The Archery Foundation started out by reviving a destroyed, forgotten cornerstone of our culture. There was one demolished minaret and the walls of an old kitchen. It rose from this. The state has to delegate this place to people who will look after it. It will be conferred to people who believe this place, its history and its mission. This not transferring resources. Let's say I'm organizing a tournament. We bring clubs to this special place. While this is happening we say 'can you provide food and drinks for our guest athletes?'. It's this kind of services. Perhaps cleaning and security personnel take over. There's no money. It's impossible for the state to transfer money to a foundation. There is this clause called joint service protocol in the law. A public institution can create a joint project with an institution beneficial to the public and ask for money for a specific project. All of this is ruled by law.

"In Turkey, foundations were used for this purpose and abused. Some institutions called foundations need to be questioned. We discussed this at the association. Someone sent us a certain amount of money. Should we give it back because that person could have expectations. I can't know what my donors want when they give money. There hasn't been a single embezzlement accusation between the 17 and 25 of December. Had there been, prosecutors would have doubtlessly filed it. Can't I do anything because I'm the son of Turkey's leader. If I receive money to solve someone's problem, that's unearned income. The state's precaution against this is financial disclosure. I gave my financial disclosure prior to the 5-year limit.

"I've been in the restaurant business for 10 years. I also have a construction business where I am a partner to my uncle and brother-in-law. For a while we built ships and sold them but right now it is only restaurants and construction. I earn a satisfying amount.

"I don't want to get involved in active politics. Politics was a burden for our family, and brought along slander. I believed that, in this period of time, I should work to strengthen civil society. Politics will follow signals from society and act accordingly. I don't see politics as an objective for myself.

"Had I not been the son of Turkey's president, I could not have drawn this much support with regards to my actions. Even declarations from Mrs. Akşener spurred interest. Some people only display negative interest but as I said 'please, even if you don't love me, come despite me.'

"I can't see our President very often. I don't want to call him and occupy his agenda. We probably see each other once every 2-3 weeks. I usually try not to stay in Ankara one hour more than necessary," Bilal Erdoğan said.