September 12, 2014

İstanbul Municipality covers Fatih College ads with black tarps

The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality, which has already been faced with allegations of discrimination against Hizmet movement-affiliated institutions operating in the city, has covered Fatih College city billboard ads with black tarps.

The administration of the Hizmet-affiliated Fatih College rented ad space on billboards in various parts of İstanbul between Sept. 5 and 15. However, the municipality covered those ads with black tarps on Sept. 9, Turkish media outlets reported on Friday.

Fatih College's lawyer, Nejdet Solmazgül, told Today's Zaman that the college has filed criminal complaints against ad company Ströer Reklamcılık and the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

The college also released a written statement mentioning previous discriminatory practices it suffered at the hands of the municipality. It said: “The Fatih College ad on the E-5 Highway in İstanbul's Merter neighborhood was removed by the municipality although the ad space had been rented out by the college until 2015. This was followed by the removal of 10 ads on city billboards in the Başakşehir district of İstanbul in July. This was further followed by the removal of a building wrap ad in the Mecidiyeköy neighborhood. The municipality has continued this practice by covering up five ads that still have time left for display. ... We will be seeking our rights as guaranteed by the law.”

These alleged discriminatory practices against Hizmet-affiliated institutions are not the first, as many institutions have become targets of municipalities.

In July, the Bolu Municipality shut down two schools belonging to businessmen affiliated with the Hizmet movement. The municipality hung a sign in front of the closed schools claiming that the buildings had not been approved and that their construction was not in line with municipal regulations. In August, the same municipality constructed a road inside the courtyard of Fatih College despite the fact that the school is surrounded by empty plots of land and that there are no residential areas around the school.

The İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality stopped the construction of an education complex on privately owned land in early June on the pretext that the land would be used as a green area and meeting point in the event of an earthquake. The municipality, however, failed to obtain the required approval from other authorities in the province to halt the construction of the education complex. The complex reportedly belonged to Fetih Eğitim İşletmeleri (Fetih Educational Operations), which has close ties to the Hizmet movement.

On June 25, the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality removed a billboard ad belonging to the Fem prep school in Mecidiyeköy on the grounds that the school had violated the municipality's advertising regulations. However, many believe the real reason is because the prep school is affiliated with the Hizmet movement, which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the government are against.

Erdoğan has accused the Hizmet movement of being behind a massive corruption investigation into his government. He claims this was a coup attempt intended to overthrow his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, although the former prime minister has not been able to produce any evidence to justify his claims.

Published on Cihan, 12 September 2014, Tuesday