The Kapali Carsi

Turkey: The economics of #OccupyGezi

Andy Warhol was truly visional when he noted that everyone would get their 15 minutes of fame in the future.

I got mine when I tweeted Saturday morning that American Hospital, owned by the Koç Group, had sent staff and equipment to the conglomerate’s Divan Hotel near Taksim Square to help out those hurt by the police crackdown there. It got retweeted more than a thousand times in a couple of hours.

The response of business has been one of the key themes of the #OccupyGezi movement. Retailers Silk & Cashmere, Boyner and Herry drew accolades early on when they declared that they would not open shop in the mall planned in place of Gezi Park.

But it was Koç that stole the show. Divan opened its doors to tear-gassed protesters Friday evening when other hotels next door did not and took a clear stance by putting the tag of the movement, #direngeziparkı (resist Gezi Park) in its Twitter profile. The medical help obviously won them lots of praise as well.

The group won more commendation when Koç University’s president cancelled final exams so that students could go to Taksim Square. The Prime Minister was quick to respond, declaring war on the conglomerate by stating that they had cut lots of trees to build their university.

I admire Koç’s courage. After all, the last part of my popular tweet was, “The Ministry of Finance will probably pay them a visit next week.” You may claim Koç is too powerful even for the government, but executives at Doğan, the owner of Hürriyet Daily News, may not agree. The group got a $500 million tax fine shortly after the PM’s open criticism of some of its journalists.

That’s why I don’t hold it too much against news channels that were airing food programs or documentaries Friday night instead of covering Taksim live. But when one did a rerun of the PM’s “call to the nation” address, enough was enough. The call center employee did not sound surprised when I called the bank of the conglomerate owning the channel to cancel my credit card. I probably wasn’t the only one.

It’s no surprise that Turkey is ranked 154th in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index. Not only is the country “currently the world’s biggest prison for journalists”, media bosses fire journalists because of pressure from the government. Self-censure is very common as well: If you know the editor will not allow that story about the minister’s son’s shady business deals, why bother?

As for the economic implications of the weekend’s festivities: For one thing, political stability, which has been priced into Turkish assets, is not given anymore. Anyone seeing the protests as a one-time disruption would be gravely mistaken. Turks did not rise against a mall; they were simply fed up the authoritarianism taking form in alcohol bans, police brutality and the like.

I would also watch out for stocks of companies deemed close to the ruling Justice and Development Party. Back in 2009, I found out that such stocks were heavily affected by the fortunes of the party.

2 Responses to “Turkey: The economics of #OccupyGezi”

solo2wingsJune 5th, 2013 at 6:10 am

I am an Israeli but I can understand the coercions that go on behind the scenes in Turkey. I admire your courage in reporting the actual events and not just repeat official statements.

Emre Deliveli edeliveliJune 5th, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Thank you! We Turks appreciate all the support from all the corners of the world…