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Written by Student Rights on 6 February 2013 at 8pm

Student society trip co-hosted by Hamas-linked charity

Last week Student Rights received a tip-off from a student at the University of Manchester that a trip to Istanbul organised by the university’s Arab Society had been co-hosted by the Turkish humanitarian organisation Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH).

Given the close links that IHH is alleged to have to Hamas, proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the British government, this should be of particular concern.

Taking place between the 15th and 21st of December, the trip focused on youth activism and included students from the Arab Society, the University of Leeds Friends of Syria Society as well as representatives from a number of Islamic Societies.

 

In a Facebook post on the 22nd December, the society thanked organisations including IHHfor the generous hosting to our participants during the trip in Istanbul & we are looking forward to work [sic]more together in the future inshAllah.

In 2010 the US State Department declared that “We know that IHH representatives have met with senior Hamas officials in Turkey, Syria and Gaza over the past three years...That is obviously of great concern to us”.

Bülent Yildirim, the President of IHH has met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and Haniyeh has said that “the IHH has particularly delivered substantial amount of aid to the people of Gaza. IHH President Bülent Yildirim offered help and stood beside our side during the war”.

Yildirim also appeared at a Hamas rally in 2009 and declared “I call upon all the leaders of the Islamic world, and upon all the peoples…anyone who does not stand alongside Palestine, his throne will be toppled”.

In addition to this rhetorical support, IHH is also a member of the Union of Good, an umbrella organisation which transfers money between international charities and Hamas-controlled organisations in the Palestinian territories. 

Union of Good was designated as a terrorist group by the US Treasury in December 2008, and in 2009 the Charity Commission ordered Interpal to disassociate from the group as it could bring the charity’s reputation into disrepute.

Given that all Student Unions are now overseen by the Charity Commission it would be worth the University of Manchester considering the potential regulatory pitfalls of allowing the Arab Society to continue to work with IHH.

However, the group’s connections to Hamas through Yildirim and Union of Good are not the only links that the organisation is accused of having to violent extremism.

In September 2012 it was reported that Free Syrian Army commanders had claimed a boat registered to the IHH had docked in Syria to deliver guns to Muslim Brotherhood-linked rebel fighters.

Whilst this suggestion of a charity becoming involved in gun-running may seem far-fetched, it is not the first time such reports have surfaced.

As early as 1997, Turkish authorities are believed to have begun investigating IHH after suggestions it was involved in purchasing automatic weapons from Islamist militants in the Middle East.

Senior members were arrested after firearms and explosives were discovered in its Istanbul office, and the authorities concluded that “detained members of IHH were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.

French counterterrorism officials have also claimed that “examination of IHH’s phone records in Istanbul showed repeated telephone calls in 1996 to an Al-Qaeda guesthouse in Milan and various Algerian terrorist operatives active elsewhere in Europe”.

One French magistrate even stated under oath during the trial of the would-be attacker that the charity had played an “important role” in an attempt to bomb LAX airport in December 2000 and was a front to obtain forged documents and weapons for fighters.

That university societies in the UK are working with IHH, no matter how infrequently or tangentially, is deeply worrying, and should be immediately investigated by the universities involved.

Whilst youth activism is part and parcel of student life, this can be achieved without associating with organisations like IHH, and here at Student Rights we hope that the societies involved will sever all ties with IHH as soon as possible.