Our Habitat and Interests

Translated by Translators for Justice
Source: http://www.bianet.org/bianet/siyaset/147154-yasam-alanimiz-ve-cikarlar?bia_source=rss

by Ayşe Buğra

There is a serious impediment to the democratization of Turkey in general, particularly, to the “liberation of Istanbul.”. This is an obstacle concerning economic interests, and the embeddedness of the economic and political interests.

In our city, it rained on Saturday night, June 1st. It could easily be anticipated that the rain would wash out the disgusting smell of tear gas permeating our city. However, this is not going to be easy.

Sunday morning newspapers gave news of a victory with contributions from columnists -some approaching the issue with a real joy, others with expression of anger. The annoyed reporters stated that they could see the desire of some forces having nothing to do with democracy and taking advantage of overthrowing.

However, it has been a clean victory up to now. First of all, it is the victory of the youth, especially young women. Members of the opposition deputies also have a share in this achievement. I think that as the residents of Istanbul, we should thank the deputies of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), one of whom was ambulanced while being located next to the protesters, and we should especially be grateful to Sirri Sureyya Onder who resisted the police despite the risk of being hospitalized again.

It is very important that the resistance has taken a form of a civil and spontaneous movement of people who managed to stand side by side in order to protect their habitats, despite all the differences in their political opinions. We should not forget that the most important and positive element which separates the countries being on the scene of “Arab Spring” from Turkey is a standing and organized opposition political party in spite of everything.

If this opposition sees that it would be largely successful in so far as it can learn a few things from the acts of civil insurgents and civil resisters, and if it also keeps in mind the necessity of influencing the political processes and elected governments to ensure permanent gains, the process of democratization in Turkey may not be as painful and difficult as it happened in the Middle East.

In contrast, there is a serious impediment in front of the democratization of Turkey in general, particularly, “the liberation of Istanbul”. This is an obstacle concerning economic interests and the embeddedness of the economic and political interests. Turkey’s economic success, still being referred to, is not a success which derives from the competitiveness of the industrial sector.

Despite a large current account deficit [2], the confidence in rapid growth of the economy leads to a flow of financial capital which has limited investment opportunities because of the world’s economic riptide.

The continued rapid growth also depends on nonstop investments in infrastructure and construction sector as Betul Tanbay, Taksim Platform spokesperson, touched upon briefly to inform the foreign press at a meeting on Friday, May 31. The economic policies carried out by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) require that the government glut the market with malls, residences, bridges, etc. by sacrificing nature and cultural heritage and making cities more and more uninhabitable.

However, there is another dimension of this process. The capital shifting toward the newly emerging Muslim entrepreneurs from especially non-Muslim minorities in the 20th century is changing hands once again today.

The most important aspect of this period of transfer is not “Anatolian capital” that the popular press and the academic circles couldn’t stop constantly telling about, but a group of enriched businessmen and their companies who have emerged in an astounding way under the rule of AKP – and all the enrichment activities on the national, but not local, level. [3]

One of these companies is the İÇ Holding that will perform “Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge” project which I hope the government will have to change, or at least, rename. Cengiz Holding and Kalyon Group are also among the rising stars of the AKP period. We have heard of their names regarding Taksim arrangement and the shopping center formerly planned for Gezi Park. Cengiz Holding could be remembered notoriously for Ilısu Dam project by which Hasankeyf will be submerged.

Kalyon Group’s political connections winning the important tenders concerning urban infrastructure projects, such as Metrobus and Kiptaş are going to the days of the Turkish National Student Union in which Kalyon’s financiers are said to be active.

The name of Hasan Kalyoncu, who is said to be one of the founders of MVM, has also been raised during the parliamentary debates which CHP opened regarding a company called MVM that receives attention on getting a large number of urban transformation projects and his relationship with the conservative nationalist Alliance Foundation, established in the 1980s, whose founders are Kalyoncu, Şahin (MVM’s chairman of the board), Tayyip Erdogan and quite a few well-known AKP deputies, as reflected in the press. After the death of Hasan Kalyoncu, his political history and relationships took part in the media again. [5]

These examples are interesting for illustrating the nature of the form of the new era in terms of the relationship between the state and business people. We can see that these relations are sometimes based on political commitments which are long-standing and deep rooted and their political and economic interests have been much more intertwined than ever before.
This brings a song that was once widely used for AKP’s election campaign to my mind: “Together we walked on these roads.” Today we can imagine that those who walked along the roads together will not “cheat” on each other easily and will definitely stand firmly back to back in order to protect the enormous economic and political power that they have acquired. This doesn’t make the job of those who are engaged in protecting their habitats any easier at all. (ABHK)

[1] Cengiz Candar, Radikal, 2 June 2013.
[2] In Turkey, the export-import balance, tourism revenue and expenditure and current account balance of payments including bilateral transfers with other external costs are in big deficit. The ratio of this deficit to GDP is not that high in any OECD country or any of the so-called emerging economies. In this respect, the table of “Economic and Financial Indicators” in The Economist can be regarded weekly.
[3] For more information on this subject, see aldo Ayse Bugra and Osman Savaskan “Local industry and business world of today’s Turkey”, “Science and Society” n.118,2010.
[4] ‘The company owner Bilal Sahin a founding member of the Birlik (Unity) Foundation’, Sabah, March 2, 2007; ‘The favorite firm of tenders’, Milliyet.
[5] “The construction sector has lost Kalyoncu, contractor of Kiptaş and Metrobus tenders.’ Hurriyet, 23.11. 2008: http://arama.hurriyet.com.tr/arsivnews.aspx?id=10423538

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