September 17, 2015

TÜSİAD warns gains Turkey made in last 10-15 years in jeopardy

The president of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Association's (TÜSİAD) High Consultation Board (YİK), Tuncay Özilhan, has said Turkey's political and economic state of being is interrelated, and that the positive gains Turkey has made in the last 10-15 years are due to recent developments that are now in serious danger.

Speaking during the first meeting of YİK this year, Özilhan pointed to the recently escalated violence in the eastern and southeastern regions of Turkey, saying that this atmosphere has been threatening civil society and the civilian administration in the country. He added that it is not difficult to deal with the situation, but the country is heading towards a snap election which is compounding the existing problems.

“Turkey has experienced a noteworthy transition in the last 10-15 years. This transition has strengthened the culture of living together and brought more democracy to us all. It has been beneficial, without exception, to all spheres of the public. But these gains are now in danger. Serious distrust among the colors [segments] of the public is about to damage the grounds for co-existence,” Özilhan said.

The country has seen an upsurge in violence since June, when the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) garnered enough votes to pass the election threshold to attain parliamentary representation as a party, thereby ending the 13-year single-party rule of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Since then, the Turkish military and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) have unexpectedly resumed long-ceased attacks on each other, putting an end to the settlement process which aimed to resolve the country's Kurdish issue by expanding cultural and social rights to Kurds, which has claimed the lives of hundreds in just a three-month period.

Özilhan also lamented the recent attacks on media outlets by saying: “We are having [hard] days in which the media institutions that are in charge of securing the public's right to access to information are being physically attacked in İstanbul, the economic capital of Turkey, a G-20 member. All these happenings are on the brink of damaging our country's stability and global prestige.”

After a tweet posted by the Hürriyet daily's official account, supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, including AK Party İstanbul deputy Abdurrahim Boynukalın, threatened and attacked the newspaper's offices twice in one week. A tweet -- which has since been deleted -- from the newspaper read: “Dağlıca comment from Erdoğan: This would not have happened if 400 deputies had been given.” The Hürriyet attacks came days after companies belonging to Koza İpek Holding, the parent conglomerate of the critical dailies Bugün and Millet, were raided by police seeking financial documents.

Touching on the economic fragilities of Turkey, Özilhan bemoaned the nosedive in the value of the Turkish lira against the US dollar and warned the country's private sector of an upcoming financial burden. In the midst of political and economic uncertainty, which has long been exacerbated by expectations for a rate hike by the US Federal Reserve, the lira has hit record lows against the greenback on multiple occasions over the past few months.

Also speaking during the meeting, TÜSİAD Chairwoman Cansen Başaran-Symes shared her concerns over the attacks against the media organs and remarked: “Media outlets, the guarantees of press freedom, have been attacked but sufficient [public] reaction against the attacks cannot, unfortunately, be raised.”

A common mood of distrust, intolerance and violence has gripped the country, spreading tension among the people, Symes explained, wishing the country to tackle the dismal situation.

Business world fully backs latest gov't victim, Boydak

Regarding the brief detention of a TÜSİAD board member, Memduh Boydak, Symes said her association feels the absence of Boydak, adding that she hopes he will be back with them soon.

Mustafa Koç, chairman of Turkey's largest conglomerate Koç Holding, has also said he supports the statement made by TÜSİAD on Boydak's detention.

When asked by reporters about the detention of Boydak, during a reception on Wednesday evening, Koç said Turkey is a very significant country in the region, adding that he believes the country will continue to preserve its major role in the region in the future.

Sabancı Holding Chairwoman Güler Sabancı also commented on the issue, saying: “I hope everything will be all right. We believe in justice.”

Turkish police detained several executives and university officials, among them the CEO of Boydak Holding, on Wednesday in Kayseri in a controversial operation that critics describe as another sign of intensified government maneuvers targeting government opponents. While Boydak was released on Thursday, four more people have been referred to the court for arrest. Boydak is said to be a sympathizer of the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, which the government has seen as a political foe for more than a few years.

In reaction to the detention, TÜSİAD, in a written statement released on Wednesday, emphasized that it is disturbed and concerned that Boydak was detained, adding that he is a very respected and valued figure in the business world.

Published on Today's Zaman, 17 September 2015, Thursday