With a German politician raising questions about its functioning, the foundation sees itself in the crosshairs of a slanderous campaign.
The Ensar Foundation recently decried German left-wing politician Ulla Jelpke for engaging in what it called an 'Islamophobic smear campaign' against the Turkish non-profit.
In early April, Jelpke asked the German government if it had ever collaborated with the foundation and whether the foundation was using refugee welfare funds sent to the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) for its own functioning.
Responding to the query, the German government said on April 13 that it only deals with the Turkish Red Crescent when it comes to sending financial aid to refugees in Turkey and has no "direct or indirect" contact with the Ensar Foundation. In an extensive report, the government said that there were no dealings between the Turkish Red Crescent and the foundation either.
The Merkel administration said Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) supervises the coordination of various international projects, including the transactions and expenses of the refugee aid sent to the Turkish Red Crescent, on behalf of the German state.
Following the Turkey-EU refugee deal, Ankara receives some limited financial assistance from Brussels in exchange to keep refugees within its borders. With the EU funding, the Turkish Red Crescent runs some of the refugee programs.
The government's response also stated that so far no complaints or findings are tying the Red Crescent's activities to the Ensar foundation — either through direct or indirect cooperation.
Denouncing Jelpke's questioning, Ensar President Cenk Dilberoglu said a four-year-old case of child abuse was being used to drag the foundation's name through the mud.
"It is an attempt to portray the Muslims as rapists, terrorists and corrupt people (...)," Dilberoglu told TRT Deutsch.
One of the Ensar-run dormitories came under the media spotlight in 2016, when courts pronounced one of its ex-teachers in Turkey's Karaman province guilty of child abuse, sentencing him to 508 years of imprisonment. The incident became a major controversy in Turkey.
Targeting the entire foundation, which has run various aid organisations for decades, for the evil deed of a pedophile was not just, Dilberoglu said, adding Jelpke was trying to weaken Ensar's influence in Europe by exploiting the incident.
Germany’s relations with its citizens of Turkish descent has always been tense as neo-Nazi and other far-right groups have periodically targeted the country’s largest minority.
With the rise of the far-right across Europe, German minorities are not only navigating day to day racial biases but also dealing with a coordinated Islamophobic campaign, while the country’s longtime leader Angela Merkel has tried to limit influences of radical groups, irrespective of their political orientation.
The Ensar Foundation, which is inspired by the Islamic principle of charity, has been supporting students in Turkey with scholarships, accommodation and meals for 40 years, according to Dilberoglu.
There are 6000 students accommodated in 61 dormitories across Turkey. At least 25,000 students from Islamic theological colleges (Imam Hatip schools) are served lunchtime meals every day.
Citing various surveys, Dilberoglu said the feedback on the foundation has been consistently positive and despite facing smear campaigns 97 percent of their dormitories continue to be filled by students.
The foundation is financed by income from property rentals, project funds, sponsors and donations from benefactors.
Urging the German media to reach out to the foundation before "the public would be manipulated" by false information, Dilberoglu said the foundation had been transparent regarding the child abuse case right from the start, disclosing all findings and updating people through various TV programs.
How the Turkish Red Crescent manages donations
Berlin’s response to the Left Party member Jelpke's request also points out that Ankara has regularly disclosed where refugee funds have been used in the past.
As per the German government's report, the Turkish Red Crescent has received 463,844 euros within the framework of cooperation with Germany and other EU countries. The same disclosures also show that the donations are intended exclusively "to support refugees and host communities in Turkey" and may not be passed on to third parties.
In addition, the Turkish Red Crescent received around 1.6 billion euros from the EU facility for Syrian refugees in Turkey (FRiT) through two different money transfer programmes, according to the German government.
The money is "intended for needy households to cover basic needs and to ensure that children attend school,” and channeled through the World Food Programme, UNICEF and the international Red Cross and Red Crescent movement and it finally lands in the coffers of the Turkish Red Crescent.
The EU is also financing a measure of the Danish Refugee Council (DRI). The Turkish Red Crescent is part of it. So far, about 32.4 million euros has been given to the DRI.
From there, the money is transferred to refugees via the Turkish Halkbank.