Diyarbakır dilemma: New factory or prison
DİYARBAKIRThe government’s recent decision to convert a former tobacco plant into a prison has angered the local chamber of commerce, which is demanding an industrial zone instead.
“The government has chosen to build an eighth prison in the city, instead of establishing a second organized industrial site,” said Remzi Can, the head of the Diyarbakır Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a press meeting on Aug. 24.
Burç Baysal, head of the Diyarbakır Industrialists and Businessmen Association’s (DİSİAD), also opposes the decision.
“[The government] has converted two tobacco factories in Muş and Batman provinces to shoe and textile factories. I do not understand the reason why they refrain from doing the same in Diyarbakır, which has only one organized industrial site,” he told the Daily News, also on Aug 24.
In 2002, when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to the power, there was only one prison in the city, Baysal said. “It was a positive step by the government to include Diyarbakır in the sixth region in the economic incentives package, but the government did not take the necessary further steps,” he said.
The Diyarbakır Tekel Tobacco Factory, which was founded in 1999 and which provided jobs for 1,500 people, was closed down as part of the government’s privatization plans in 2010, along with a number of some other facilities across the country. Later, local business associations demanded the area, with its industrial infrastructure, be turned into an industrial zone.
The facility already has 14.5 hectares of covered area. There lie 12 depots with 0.5 hectares of area each, in addition to two plants on 5.5 hectares of land. Can thinks this land could easily be turned into manufacturing facilities and factories within a few months.
“We were informed that the former tobacco plant and depots would be converted into a jail about 15 days ago. We have not received any reaction from the government yet. [I believe] even the Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] does not know about this, so this decision may be revised,” Can told the Daily News on the phone.
The plot was registered as a housing, trade, shopping mall and fuel sales area in the Privatization Board’s original plan, but the board also approved the recent prison plan, Can also said. Separate tenders were already set to construct two more prisons, he added.
“[The officials] said the site would be used as a prison temporarily until the second brand-new prison is ready in two years. But [I think] it is not definite what is going to happen after two years,” he said.
An official the Karacadağ Development Agency, which is in charge of two cities, Diyarbakır and Şanlıurfa, prepared a report on the subject, stating that some 5,000 new jobs could be created if the factory was given to the private sector, Can noted.
The terror problem in the region overshadows Diyarbakır’s core problems, he added, accusing the media of repeatedly describing the area as being highly risky. “Investors are afraid to come here. Recently, we invited Ali Ağaoğlu [the famous contractor] for a fair here. Maybe because he was affected by what he saw on the T.V., he demanded a private plane and an armored vehicle to come here. He does not want to take any risks.”
The Diyarbakır Governor’s Office declined to comment on the issue when contacted by the Daily News.