Finally, we have a Qatar Street in Istanbul

Finally, we have a Qatar Street in Istanbul

The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has changed the name of the 3.5-kilometer long “İstinye Bayırı” Street where the posh mall İstinye Park is located into “Qatar Street.” At the municipal assembly, despite the objections of the opposition party members, the name “Qatar Street” was approved with the votes of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) members.

This street is in Istanbul’s Sarıyer district and the district municipality is one where the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is in the majority. A member of the greater municipal assembly, CHP member Ali Rıza Yılmaz, said, “If need be, then we will hold a referendum in Sarıyer.” Yılmaz, who is also a member of the Sarıyer Municipal Assembly, is right.

Because, after the Gezi Park incidents, we all remember Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş pledging, “Even if the name of a bus stop is to be changed in Istanbul, we will ask this to the people.”

Last December, Ankara’s 415th street was named “Qatar Street” in a ceremony where Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek also participated.

Well, of course, there was no mention of a referendum in Ankara.

I will not speculate on the claims that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu met the Emir of Qatar right after the street in İstinye was named “Qatar Street,” or that there have been 56 top level official visits to Qatar between 2002 and 2013.

I have a different point of view in the “Qatar Street” incident. 

Qatar, which has a huge financial power despite its size, has significant investments in about 40 countries in the world.

The Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), which was formed in 2003, is estimated to have a portfolio more than $60 billion. For instance, the QIA bought France’s famous Paris Saint Germain football club a couple of years ago. Again in France, one of Paris’ symbols, the Printemps building, as well as the Concorde Lafayette hotels and the famous Martinez Hotel in Cannes belong to the Emir of Qatar.

Likewise, the Qatar royal family has shares in famous French brands and companies such as Le Tanneur, Lagardere, EADS, Total, Vivendi and LVMH.

Qatar, third in the world in oil and natural gas reserves with its 34 trillion cubic meters, has quite a lot of investments in the U.K. as well.

The Qatar royal family owns several estates, such as the famous London store Harrods, the Victory Park Olympic Village, the apartment blocks alongside Hyde Park, the building of the U.S. embassy at Grosvenor Square and The Shard, known as the highest building in the EU.

Qatar owns 20 percent of the shares in the London Stock Exchange as well as 20 percent of Camden market. They also have shares in Sainsbury stores and own almost all of Canary Wharf, London’s financial district. 

As you can see, the list of Qatar’s investments in France and the U.K. are very long. Here is why these examples have any reference to the “Qatar Street” in Istanbul:

Despite Qatar’s giant investments, I don’t think the French will ever name any of their famous boulevards, for example Champs Elysees or Saint Germain, “Boulevard de Qatar;” just as the British will not change the name of Oxford Street into Qatar Street.

Have I made myself clear?

We do have a right to demand respect for the memory of cities…