The İstanbul-based İHH was established in 1995 during the Bosnian war and gradually expanded its operations to over 100 countries. Its efforts have included taking humanitarian aid such as food and drinking water to Hurricane Katrina survivors in the United States and sponsoring cataract surgeries in impoverished African nations. Some 400 of the 600 peace activists aboard the main ship in the aid flotilla attacked in international waters earlier this week were from Turkey, and most were members of the İHH, which firmly denies any ties to terrorist groups.
Speaking at a daily press briefing on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., US State Department spokesperson Philip J. Crowley was reminded of allegations that the İHH “supports terrorist organizations” and was urged to make a statement clarifying this issue.
“We know that İHH 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. That said, the İHH, which stands for the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, has not been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States,” Crowley said in response.
“We cannot validate that,” he replied when posed the question, “So the US does not believe it has connections to al-Qaeda?”
The İHH, which is not among some 45 groups listed as terrorist organizations by the US State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, vehemently denies ties to radical groups.