November 8, 2015

TUSKON: Our members being threatened to leave union

Businesspeople from the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) are being threatened by high-ranking state officials to end their membership in the union, a written statement by the union said on Sunday, denouncing growing pressure on government critics in the country.

Apart from sweeping pressures against the corporate entity of TUSKON, board members of the union have, for long, been forced by senior public officials to withdraw their membership and make intimidating statement against TUSKON, the statement read.

Underlining that the pressure took a turn for the worse after the Nov. 1 election, the statement maintained that businesspeople are intimidated by the recent decision concerning Koza İpek Holding and pressured to enroll in other nongovernmental organizations after leaving TUSKON.

A leading conglomerate, Koza İpek was put under administrative receivership by an Ankara court on Oct. 26. The holding, among its subsidiaries, has four media outlets critical of the government.

Even though TUSKON is regularly inspected by the Interior Ministry, police searched the offices of a number of unions affiliated with TUSKON, the statement also said, adding that the union has been under such pressures for the last two years.

The last inspection by the ministry was at the end of 2014, TUSKON said.

Boydak Holding parts ways with TUSKON in face of government pressure

A senior official from the Central Anatolian furniture conglomerate Boydak Holding has announced that the company has withdrawn its membership in TUSKON, which saw some of its members raided in a government-backed operation on Friday.

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

Boydak's remarks came one day after police searched the offices of a number of unions affiliated with TUSKON. The unions are reportedly accused of financing terrorism. In a written statement on Friday, TUSKON, which is close to the Gülen movement, confirmed the raids and dismissed reports that its headquarters had also been searched by the police.

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, referring to the government's claims of the existence of a so-called "parallel structure,” a phrase coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement.

Inspired by the US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, the Gülen movement, which is better known in Turkey as the Hizmet movement, is a faith-based community against which the government has been pursuing a witch hunt since the outbreak of scandalous corruption allegations in 2013. Even though the movement strongly rejects the claims, the government accuses it of attempting to topple the government.

The Boydak statement also came soon after Koza İpek Holding, a business conglomerate close to the Gülen movement, was placed under the administration of a board of trustees as part of an investigation into allegations of financing terrorism. Twenty-two subsidiaries of the conglomerate, including four critical media outlets, were raided last week following the appointment of the board. The two seized newspapers that were part of the large company were quickly turned into government mouthpieces after the takeover.

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

Boydak Holding is active in a number of sectors, including energy, furniture and banking. It is one of the largest conglomerates in Turkey and has 38 subsidiaries in eight sectors. According to its website, Boydak Holding has an annual turnover of more than TL 6 billion ($2 billion) and employs over 13,000.

On Nov. 1, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), co-founded by Erdoğan in 2001, regained its parliamentary majority in a snap election which the president portrayed as a vote for stability but which opponents fear heralds growing authoritarianism.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 8 November 2015, Sunday