Istanbul taxi drivers protest Uber amid court hearing
Fırat Alkaç – ISTANBUL
A group of taxi drivers gathered early on March 12 outside Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse to protest against Uber ahead of the second hearing of a lawsuit opened against the transport company by the United Taxi Drivers Association.
The taxi drivers complained that they were losing customers to Uber during the protest, which was organized by the Istanbul Taxi Drivers Tradesmen’s Association (İTEO).
“Our case has entered the 10th Commercial Court of First Instance. We demand that Uber vehicles be taken out of service. These are labor thieves. Today is the second hearing. We are waiting for positive results,” İTEO president Eyüp Aksu said.
Carrying banners reading “Uber = Global Thief” and “We do not want global thief Uber,” the taxi drivers claimed that Uber has already been driven out of many European countries.
“We believe the Turkish justice system should rule in favor of the people, not the ones who have capital power,” the taxi drivers stated.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks between taxi drivers and Uber drivers in Istanbul, amid reports of numerous instances in which groups of taxi drivers have physically attacked Uber drivers.
On March 10, shots were fired at an Uber vehicle in the Küçükçekmece district. Following the attack, Uber released a statement about the rising number of violent incidents targeting Uber vehicles in Turkey.
“It would be incorrect to generalize based on the mistakes of these people and attribute their actions to the whole taxi community,” said one of the protesting taxi drivers on March 12.
The lawyers of the United Taxi Drivers Association have demanded that the authorities block access to the Uber application in Turkey. The court adjourned the trial to June 4, stating they are waiting for the expert report regarding the issue to be released.
Aksu called on all people not to utilize the Uber application.
“The struggle that taxi drivers have put up against unlicensed taxis is obvious. Uber’s operations are another image of unlicensed taxi transportation … This situation should not concern only taxi drivers, but all groups who care about the country’s interests,” he said.
“We trust the Turkish Parliament, our president and our prime minister. They always indicate that they stand by taxi drivers. We are waging a legal struggle against a global thief. Developments in the case are advancing in our favor … In European countries taxi drivers burn things during their demonstrations [against Uber]. Here we do not want to conduct such a protest. But if the justice hands down a different ruling [other than in favor of the taxi drivers], the patience of taxi drivers will have run out. Taxi drivers will do anything necessary for their bread [income]. Our bread [income] is as important as our honor,” Aksu said.
Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Gürsel Tekin was also present at the area of protest, supporting the taxi drivers.
The Customs and Trade Ministry has prepared a report on Uber, saying a “legal regulation” is needed on the application’s use as there are “legal holes” regarding the operation of the ride-hailing platform in Turkey.
“Such companies should either be completely blocked on a legal grounds or should be legitimized within the framework of more stringent conditions,” the ministry’s report stated.