November 29, 2018
A government-led campaign demonizing American-Hungarian billionaire and philanthropist George Soros has reached such a crescendo in Turkey that the Open Society Foundation has decided to pull out from the country.
Soros who in recent years has been turned into a hated figure in countries such as Macedonia, Poland, Romania and even his native Hungary, is now being used as a tool to intimidate the opposition in Turkey. The most striking reflections of this campaign are the judicial onslaughts targeting Turkish civic society leader Osman Kavala and the Open Society Foundation in Turkey, which Kavala had co-founded.
The left-leaning Kavala, imprisoned for more than a year without an indictment, has often been labeled “the red Soros” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a Nov. 21 speech, Erdogan again drew a link between the two, accusing them of sponsoring the mass anti-government demonstrations in Turkey in 2013, which started at Gezi Park in Istanbul. “A person who was the funding source of the terrorists during the Gezi incidents is currently in prison. Behind him is the famous Hungarian Jew, Soros,” he said.
Yet Erdogan was on good terms with Soros until several years ago. The first meeting between the two took place in January 2003, shortly after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party came to power. Accompanied by two senior aides, Erdogan looked happy at the meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. For Erdogan at the time, rubbing shoulders with influential figures such as Soros was like a key that opened doors for him in the United States and the European Union (EU).