Turkey: The Next Uber and Taxi War Zone

Just like all the other countries that Uber has hit, or to be fair, that rideshare companies have hit, Turkey's taxi drivers are up in arms against the onslaught that ridesharing will have on their income. Unlike Japan, which is the only country where ridesharing is illegal, the rest of the world has yet to standardize the way this gig-economy is regulated.

On March 12th, in Istanbul's Çağlayan Courthouse, Uber is standing trial in a second hearing of the United Taxi Drivers Association's lawsuit against Uber. Outside the court, hundreds of taxi drivers have been organized into a group protesting against Uber, organized by the Istanbul Taxi Drivers Tradesmen's Association (İTEO).

Eyüp Aksu, ITEO president, told the press that "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,"

The crowd holds up banners stating "Uber = Global Thief" as well as "We do not want global thief Uber."

Tension is rising in Istanbul, and Uber drivers have been shot at by taxi drivers, as was the case for one unfortunate driver on March 10th in the Küçükçekmece district of Istanbul.

Just as taxi drivers around the world could not accept this steamroller rideshare expansion, so too in Turkey are drivers protesting the onslaught that can only be stopped through legislation. As one taxi driver told the media "We believe the Turkish justice system should rule in favor of the people, not the ones who have capital power." However, what this taxi driver does not understand is that the Uber driver is the people as much as the taxi driver is. The issue is around how to operate professionally paid driving, not about taxi drivers.

The same driver talked about the shooting incident, saying that "It would be incorrect to generalize based on the mistakes of these people and attribute their actions to the whole taxi community."

During the second hearing, the United Taxi Drivers Association lawyers asked the Judge to rule against Uber and to decide to block the access of the Uber app in their country. The Judge adjourned the hearing to review the material and would reconvene the court to trial on June 4th. In the meantime, Aksu urged all citizens to stop fueling the flames of violence by not utilizing the Uber app until the court makes its decision. As he stated "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. 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, the patience of taxi drivers will have run out. Taxi drivers will do anything necessary for their bread. Our bread is as important as our honor."

Just so our readers understand the meaning of bread and honor, this stands for the very fabric of life in Turkey, and the average Turk will protect his family from suffering by resorting to violence. If the court case turns out in favor of Uber, the only outcome will be a national outcry of angry and armed taxi drivers leading to a lot of bloodsheds.

The government is not sitting by idly; they are also looking into the "loopholes" that are apparent in the face of emerging transportation technologies. As the Customs and Trade Ministry have a report ready stating that there is a need to regulate the application and cover up any legal holes that are not in place. The report states that "Such companies should either be completely blocked on a legal grounds or should be legitimized within the framework of more stringent conditions."

One interesting issue should be considered and that is Turkeys political position with the US, where Uber is a US company and Turkey is definitely no friend of the US at the moment. Both the opposition party as well as the leading powers in government will view Uber as an invader to their countries internal peace. My projection is that Uber and ridesharing will receive the same treatment as they have in Japan. The only real outcome for a peaceful Turkish future is to regulate Uber and make ridesharing illegal while allowing companies such as Gett to introduce Taxi apps that perform the same functions as a rideshare app, but with taxi drivers and not private car owners.

Guess what, you don’t need to be a Kurd, or a Syrian, you just need to be an Uber driver in Istanbul to be shot at. With all the shit going on over there, you would think that this is the last reason to kill for.

I just read about a victim in South Africa, that one was really bad. I don’t think Turkey has a monopoly on violence and in fact, based on the reports coming out of Istanbul, the unrest is no less violent than it has been anywhere else. Its just a shame that taxi drivers cannot see the writing on the wall. In fact, if most taxi drivers would convert to Uber then they would save themselves a lot of issues and start to earn from day 1.