Head of persecuted French Muslim NGO seeks political asylum in Turkey

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The head of French Muslim NGO BarakaCity has publicly requested asylum in Turkey for himself and his organisation, following the French government’s crackdown against its Muslim population and its dissolution of the NGO.

Idriss Sihamedi, BarakaCity’s founder and head, whose house was raided by anti-terror police two weeks ago over allegations of harassment and extremism, announced his request for asylum in Turkey on Twitter yesterday.

In the tweet, in which he tagged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sihamedi said: “Following the lies of the [French] government…and the closure of the humanitarian and human rights NGO, I officially request political asylum for BarakaCity.” That asylum, he wrote, should be granted also to “my team and myself, who are under threat of death.”

In response, the official account of Turkey’s Directorate General of Migration Management replied today, informing him that his “name, surname, identity information and petitions for asylum applications including passport numbers…will be assessed” once they are sent. It added that “Following your information, our Istanbul airport team will be informed of the situation.”

Sihamedi’s request for asylum in Turkey comes after BarakaCity, the NGO which distributed aid to two million people worldwide, was shut down and dissolved by the French government following two weeks of investigation over “Islamist” ties.

READ: France demands Arab countries prevent boycott of French business over insults of Prophet

In an interview with Middle East Monitor this week, Sihamedi denied the allegations and maintained that the government’s raids on him and other organisations were conducted to send a message to the French Muslim community not to speak up or hold opinions which contrast those of the state and its secular values.

To many, his request for asylum raises questions of an exodus of the French Muslim community and its businesses from the country, amid the government’s crackdown. Harsh measures were launched this month when French President Emmanuel Macron spoke out against “Islamist separatism” and closed some Muslim organisations, businesses and even cafes within the country.

He also refused to condemn disrespectful cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), stating that France will not give up making the caricatures based on freedom of expression.

As a result, Erdogan last week said Macron suffers from mental health issues and “needs treatment on a mental level,” asking: “What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?” France pulled its ambassador from Turkey in response.

In retaliation to France’s crackdown and the inflammatory cartoons, there have been calls for a boycott of French products, brands and businesses throughout Muslim-majority countries. While some have already begun that boycott on a non-governmental level, such as in Kuwait and Qatar, while Erdogan officially called for it in Turkey.

READ: The politicisation of civilisations and ideologies: Macron, Charlie Hebdo and blasphemy in France

Calls for boycott of French products - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Calls for boycott of French products – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Middle East Monitor

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