November 14, 2015

Turkey fails G-20 inclusiveness bid as businesses, SMEs persecuted

Turkey, the host of this year's G-20 summit has lost its claim to “inclusiveness,” one of the three main areas of focus laid out in its document of priorities, as the persecution and the seizing of assets belonging to businesspeople thought to be affiliated with the Gülen or Hizmet movement -- a grassroots civil society organization -- reaches new heights.

During its G-20 presidency, Turkey claimed it would focus on three areas: inclusiveness, investment and implementation; however, the country's reputation will continue to suffer at the G-20 summit held in Antalya on Sunday, as the oppression of opposition businesspeople increases.

According to the document entailing Turkey's G-20 priorities for 2015, signed by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey “will emphasize issues pertaining to the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as a cross-cutting subject…”

In his Daily Sabah column on Tuesday, presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın wrote about “inclusiveness” as a term pertaining only to macroeconomic issues. According to Kalın, inclusive growth means supporting small and medium-sized enterprises at the national level and supporting low-income developing countries at the global level.

However, despite the binding nature of this document, both Kalın and Davutoğlu have played their part in the interim Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government that has facilitated the intimidation and suppression of dissenting businesspeople as well as the seizure of their assets.

Not even the fear of international rebukes coming at the G-20 summit to be held in Antalya on Sunday has deterred the AK Party from pursuing its agenda of total domination of businesses and businesspeople in Turkey.

KOSGEB target of government led crackdowns

In July the then-interim AK Party government continued its intimidation tactics, targeting the Small and Medium Industry Development Organization (KOSGEB), with an investigation launched into loans provided by the organization from 2008 to date.

KOSGEB, which has 780,000 registered tradesmen and is reportedly affiliated with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in terms of the administrators' political outlook, was the target of a government crackdown after an investigation was opened into certain members of the organization and certain enterprises that received loans from KOSGEB.

As a part of the investigation, Ankara public prosecutor Musa Yücel sent a formal request to KOSGEB just four days after the June 7 general election seeking information about the administrators of the organization and those enterprises that received loans from 2008 to date.

The number of companies that are involved in the prosecutor's investigation is estimated to be around 70,000, the report noted.

KOSGEB is an organization that provides millions of dollars in zero-interest loans to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These funds are intended to help create new jobs and provide employment for tens of thousands of people.

22 Companies of Koza İpek Holding taken over by trustees

On Oct. 28, Turkey witnessed one of the darkest examples of the persecution of businessmen refusing to kowtow to the AK Party as 22 companies of Koza İpek Holding, including critical TV stations Bugün TV, Kanaltürk and two newspapers, were taken over by trustees just days before the election on Nov. 1.

The two seized newspapers, which were quickly turned into government mouthpieces after the takeover, are now non-recognizable.

Claims by AK Party officials such as party spokesperson Ömer Çelik, who said that the AK Party would be “all embracing” and “non-revanchist,” were short-lived. Only two days after the elections 82 journalists were fired from their jobs at the Bugün daily, after their newspaper was taken over by government-appointed trustees.

The former governor of the Central Bank of Turkey, Durmuş Yılmaz, recently told Sunday's Zaman, “The man's [Akın İpek: owner of Koza İpek Holding] company has been officially taken over. This is nothing but a violation of property rights.”

“There can be no investment in a country where there is an attack on property rights. People will not shoulder responsibility [of investment], they will not produce. This is placing fear in the hearts of all,” said Yılmaz.

Dr. Osman Kılıç, from Connecticut's Quinnipiac University, told Sunday's Zaman that Turkey has been left exposed to collapse since the property rights of citizens and the free media in the country are under threat.

“It will attract less foreign investment amid the damaged rule of law,” Kılıç said.

Gökhan Karahan, assistant professor at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, told Sunday's Zaman that the developments are nothing short of a witch hunt, adding that such moves will increase the already-existent uncertainty for investors since all dissenting voices are placed under pressure.

TUSKON: Our members are being threatened by state officials

On Nov. 8 the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) released a statement that its members were being threatened by high-ranking state officials to end their membership.

Underlining that the pressure has increased after the Nov. 1 election, TUSKON's statement maintained that businesspeople are being intimidated by the recent seizure of Koza İpek Holding and are being pressured to enroll in other unions.

Even though TUSKON is regularly inspected by the Interior Ministry, police searched the offices of a number of unions affiliated with TUSKON, on Friday Nov. 6, despite the last inspection taking place in 2014. The unions are reportedly accused of financing terrorism.

Boydak Holding leaves TUSKON in face of gov't pressure

A senior official from the Central Anatolian furniture conglomerate Boydak Holding announced that the company has withdrawn its membership in TUSKON.

The vice chairman of the executive board of Boydak Holding, Mustafa Boydak, announced via his Twitter account recently that the holding's companies have ended their memberships in “NGOs that raise questions among the public,” referring to TUSKON.

In mid-September, the CEO of Kayseri-based Boydak Holding, Memduh Boydak, was briefly detained as part of a government-initiated operation.

Stating that it is impossible for the holding to be associated with “a structure that is outside of the state mechanism,” Boydak said the holding's name should not be linked to any religious community.

Erdoğan and the AK Party launched a self-declared war against the Hizmet movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, after a corruption probe went public on Dec. 17, 2013, incriminating senior members of the government, and sons of three now-former ministers as well as Erdoğan's family members.

Erdoğan accused the Hizmet movement of being behind the probe and attempting to overthrow his government. The movement strongly rejects the claims.

The 2015 G-20 Antalya summit will be the 10th annual meeting of the G-20 countries as Turkey, officially took over the presidency of the G-20 from Australia on Dec. 1, 2014.

US President Barack Obama, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other international organizations will be present at the summit.

Published on Today's Zaman, 14 November 2015, Saturday