Beyoğlu shopkeepers’ woes date back further than Gezi Park protests
Deniz Çiyan / Nazlı Avşaroğlu ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Many business owners in Beyoğlu say their main problem was the ban on placing tables and chairs outside shop fronts, which has been implemented for the past two years.The Istanbul protests have changed life in the city center, but shopkeepers say their economic problems go further back than the Gezi Park rallies, and their woes have been ongoing for the last two years.
The shop owners in Taksim, at the heart of Istanbul’s nightlife, recently made headlines with some hitting the streets with machetes, knives, sticks and even with a gun, to attack protesters.
They were cited in the media as people “who were fed up after their businesses suffered badly from Gezi Park protests.” However, although many shop owners admit they have been commercially affected during the protests, they also say the protests have only made them realize their situation better, as they have been experiencing considerable economic difficulties for the last two years.
Göksel Tunalı, a bar owner in Beyoğlu, told the Hürriyet Daily News that the main problem they had faced was the ban on placing tables and chairs outside shop fronts, which has been implemented for the past two years.
“I have not come across any damage from the protesters,” Tunalı said, adding that the protesters were their customers who even tried to save the shopkeepers from receiving any kind of damage. “The Gezi resistance is not the reason but the result why the tradesmen suffered, just like in all the other sectors. The resistance happened because these sufferings existed.”
Tunalı also said the declaration of the Main Union of Turkey’s Merchants and Craftsmen Loan and Bail Cooperatives Union (TESKOMB) on Monday about the attacks by the shopkeepers with sticks on the protesters on Saturday was a set up organized by the government to clear its name. Kadir Akgül, chairman of TESKOMB, claiming to speak for all tradesmen in the area, delivered a statement saying that it was the protests’ fault that the shopkeepers had received great losses, and called for the demonstrations to be ended immediately.
“Somebody told them [TESKOMB] to make a statement and so they have,” said Tunalı at a press statement of the Association of Beyoğlu Bars and Entertainment Places (BEYDER). The press statement was organized in front of the Taksim İlkyardım Hospital to show solidarity with the family of 16-year-old Ali Tombul, who has been in critical condition since June 8, when he was hit by a tear gas canister on the day that Gezi Park was reopened by Istanbul Governor Avni Mutlu.
Ebru Mordalga, another bar owner in Taksim, said many of the bar owners knew the members of the shop owners with batons. “I am so angry at the ones who attacked. They acted foolishly,” said Mordalga.
Muhammed, a salesman in a liqueur store who wished to conceal his surname, criticized both the protesters and the police for not ending the protests. “I am not a supporter of the anti-government protests. I think the problem comes from both sides, so I am begging them to stop it,” said Muhammed, adding that their sales were still going sharply downwards. Gürkan Ercan, a musician who had to shut down his fast-food store six months ago in a well known side street of İstiklal Avenue, claimed that the victimhood of the shopkeepers was not just because of the Gezi protests.
“The Beyoğlu Municipality carries out policies to demolish small tradesmen in order to support principal capital owners. Removing outdoor tables were also the part of this policy, which continued with excessive police interventions on peaceful protesters in Taksim,” said Ercan.
Commenting on the policies of the Beyoğlu Municipality, Mordalga said they were resisting leaving Beyoğlu, on the contrary to what the municipality wanted.
Municipality shuts down bar
ISTANBUL - HürriyetThe cafe-bar owned by the head of the Association of Beyoğlu Bars and Entertainment Places Tarkan Konar, who issued a statement on July 16 expressing local shopkeepers’ support for the Gezi Park protesters, is set to re-open tomorrow (July 19) after a three-day shut out penalty. Konar had not recognized the declaration of the Main Union of Turkey’s Merchants and Craftsmen Loan and Bail Cooperatives Union on July 15 that accused the protesters for the shopkeepers’ losses.