Cry from Mardin reflects the mood of the business world

Cry from Mardin reflects the mood of the business world

It was in the southeastern province of Mardin about 15 years ago when I first met Ebru Baybara Demir. After her tourism education in Istanbul, she went back to her hometown, which was exploring tourism at that time. I remember very well that in those days there were no decent hotels or restaurants in Mardin. 

With the tourism agency she set up at that time, Demir was searching for ways to better host tourists in Mardin. I remember the picnic Demir organized at an Assyrian village in the region with a women’s organization to draw attention to “honor” killings; I had tasted some food I had never tasted before. 

If Mardin is hosting 700,000 tourists annually today, if more hotels and restaurants are opening in town, the “creative seeds” planted by Demir had a huge share in this. 

The historic Cercis Murat Konağı, a mansion she converted into a restaurant, served by Mardin housewives, is now an international destination. 

I visited Mardin in May on the occasion of the third Mardin Biennial. The future of the city is totally dependent on tourism.  

However, unfortunately, with the latest developments that started with the Suruç massacre and continued with operations to Syria, the cancellation of tours was coming one after the other.

Her message the other day, “Two major tours have cancelled, the rest are coming,” was like a cry. Mardin had huge hopes for tourism in 2015 but now its business world is desperate.   

Even before the military operation, Turkish Exporters Assembly (TİM) head Mehmet Büyükekşi said they were against an early election. “As exporters, we want a coalition to be formed and for life to go back to normal,” he said. According to Büyükekşi, the business world wants confidence and stability and in the case of an early election, the year 2015 will be a lost one for Turkey. 

Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (Türkonfed) head Tarkan Kadooğlu shares the same concerns. Because of the uncertainties, investments are withheld, he said. According to Kadooğlu, foreign investors are also waiting because they want to be able to predict medium and long term. 

While everything was built on such a sensitive equilibrium, the business world is facing a situation as if an elephant has entered a china shop. 

The Diyarbakır Chamber of Trade and Industry (DTSO) defined the incidents in the region as “concerning.” DTSO head Ahmet Sayar said, “Problems cannot be solved by ignoring. We have seen this in time with bitter experiences. We know that the road to a resolution and peace passes through seeing and recognizing everybody with their own color, own language, own beliefs and rights as a whole.” 

Concerned voices are not coming only from the east. The business world in the west of the country is also uneasy. Aegean Industrialists and Businessmen Association (ESIAD) head Mustafa Güçlü said, “We live in a very tense region. Early election debates should be left out altogether. Imagine the anxiety an early election would create in such an environment. The day is the day of sacrifice.” Isn’t he right?