A single day of headlines tell you all there is to know about Turkey

I planned to limit this article to the scandal that is the Zafer Airport in western Turkey. But a quick scan of recent newspaper headlines was enough for me to realise that scandals in Turkey far exceed the airport alone.

The news items of a single day point to the downward spiral Turkey is in. I’ll share them with you and let you make up your own mind.

First, the Zafer Airport scandal. The airport was taken on by contractor IC İçtaş in 2012, with a government guaranteed income quota for 1.27 million passengers per year.

Let’s say that 2020 has been an abnormal year due to the pandemic. But between the years 2012 and 2020, passenger numbers at the airport fell short of the quota by 97 percent, leaving the cost of the rest to be picked up by the Turkish taxpayer.

This is unacceptable. The companies involved, as well as those who guaranteed the quota, will surely be tried in court.

Let us now turn to the scandal involving Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, which stands accused in the United States of laundering up to $20 billion on behalf of Iranian entities, as well as bank fraud charges, and concealing the nature of these illicit transactions from U.S. officials.

Ankara denies complicity in the scheme. A trial is set to begin in New York this month.

John Bolton, once national security adviser to former U.S. President Donald Trump, has said that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan repeatedly asked his then U.S. counterpart for the Halkbank case to be dismissed.

"It would be a rare conversation in person or on the phone where it didn't come up," Bolton told German news magazine Der Spiegel.

Anyone following the case knows the magnitude of the money involved and the abundant available information as to where and to whom the money went. A portion of this information leaked during Turkey’s Dec. 17 to 25, 2013 corruption probe.

As a Turkish citizen, there are three things that disturb me. First, why did the government allow such an outrageous scheme to take place. Second, why as the government has sought to cover up the sordid affair, an effort that has at this point become impossible. And third, why is the president so concerned with such dirty matters.

Another headline concerned opposition lawmaker Garo Paylan from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), one of 25 HDP deputies that face losing their immunity from prosecution.

In efforts to prove Paylan’s guilt, Turkish prosecutors have evidenced the way he addressed "Dear Selahattin Demirtaş", the imprisoned co-chair of the HDP.

Paylan’s use of a similar term of endearment for jailed Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala is also being used against him, with the HDP lawmaker accused of “praising the crime and criminals”. 

This might be the most ridiculous reasoning I have ever heard in my life.

For a summary of proceedings to be compiled on the basis of terms of endearment, let alone taken seriously by the judiciary, is indicative of the insanity that has engulfed Turkey.

Another headline concerned the AKP’s new Istanbul chairman Osman Nuri Kabaktepe.

Artı Gerçek news site reported that Kabaktepe is a partner in the Ayn media company, which in the last eight years has won contracts totalling 41.9 million lira ($5.6 million) from Istanbul’s Esenler municipality.

The report lays bare how the AKP and its circles are incapable of running successful businesses without public contracts, and the sheer magnitude of corruption in the country.

Finally, we arrive at the murky relations between the press and the business world.

Turkey’s pro-government Demirören Group, a conglomerate that oversees energy firms and several pro-government news outlets, has taken over Azerbaijan’s state-owned lottery company following an agreement signed in Baku.

The take-over is the latest in burgeoning relations and investment ties between Turkey and Azerbaijan.

I wonder if any of the Demirören owned media will publish anything about the 1978 killing of a Greek businessman known simply as "Arşimidis,’’ whose burned body was discovered in İstanbul’s Halkalı district.

Reports that the killing was carried out by Erdoğan Demirören, the late chairman of the Demirören Group, were removed from the media outlets’ archives after their acquisition by the conglomerate.

Meanwhile, Demirören is accused of seizing the properties of the Greek businessman after his death.

Piece together all these new items, and they paint a picture of Turkey today.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.