Geopolitics

Turkey's Spiraling Corruption Scandal, A Timeline Of Events

Over the past two weeks, an alleged corruption scandal has engulfed Turkey. Follow the rapidly changed events in these hectic days as Prime Minister Erdogan fights for his political life.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan (waving) and other AKP party members on Dec. 24
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan (waving) and other AKP party members on Dec. 24
Fatih Yagmur

ISTANBUL — It began on a Tuesday morning, Dec. 17, when the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office opened what came to be called the "Corruption and Bribery Operation". Virtually every passing day since has shaken Turkey with new developments: Police officers have been removed from their posts, government cabinet members resigned, prosecutors made public statements against each other, some members of the leading Justice and Development Party (AKP) quit, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed a foreign plot against him, a police officer was found dead, and more. Here is how events have unfolded:

Dec. 17
The crackdown began early in the morning. The first hint journalists got was that well-known figures were about to be detained. Their names were revealed soon after, and included Baris Guler (son of then-Interior Minister Muammer Guler), Abdullah Oguz Bayraktar (son of Environment and Urban Affairs Minister Erdogan Bayraktar), state-owned Halkbank’s General Manager Süleyman Arslan, Istanbul’s Fatih District Mayor Mustafa Demir and well-known businessmen Ali Agaoglu and Reza Zarrab — among others. Three different operations took place simultaneously and the investigation was being run by Zekeriya Öz, famous for the Ergenekon trials that landed dozens of generals, politicians and journalists in jail for allegedly plotting the overthrow of the Erdogan government.

Dec. 18
Serious accusations were leaked to the press. Businessman Reza Sarraf was accused of bribery, money laundering and gold smuggling because of his relationships with four cabinet members. It was claimed that the Environment and Urban Affairs minister was receiving a cut of 0.3%-0.4% from the money transfers, and that any troubles Sarraf faced within Turkey's bureaucracy were allegedly handled by the interior minister. It was also claimed that Minister for European Union Affairs Egemen Bagis was receiving bribes from Sarraf in return for keeping an eye on his dealings. Turkey’s gold dealings with Iran in return of crude oil and natural gas were being discussed in scope of the operation. The biggest item on the agenda was the money counting machine, many steel safes and lots of cash police say they confiscated from the house of the interior minister’s son. Another hot item was the $4.5 million in cash found in shoeboxes at the residence of the Halkbank director.

The day did not end just with these developments. Five police officials, including the ones who were active in the operations, were removed from duty and replaced the same day, and two new prosecutors were assigned to the investigation. The prosecution team was also ordered by Istanbul's Chief Prosecutor to make any new decisions about the investigation’s future with a majority vote. These actions sparked loud criticisms that the government was interfering in the judicial operation. Later that night, it was announced that veteran journalist Nazli Ilicak was fired from the pro-AKP daily Sabah after she'd called on the ministers mentioned in the investigation to resign.

Dec. 19
Several more police officers were removed from duty in provinces around Turkey. Huseyin Capkin, the Istanbul Police Chief was also removed from duty and replaced by Aksaray Governor Selami Altinok — who has no experience in law enforcement.

Dec. 21
Baris Guler (son of the interior minister), Salih Kaan Caglayan (son of the Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan), Reza Sarraf and the Halkbank manager were arrested by court order along with 26 other suspects. Others, including the son of the Environment and Urban Affairs minister, businessman Agaoglu and the Fatih Mayor, were released. The government changed the regulation regarding the justice police and made the police chiefs and governors of the province their superiors, instead of the prosecutors. Governors are not elected in Turkey; they are assigned by the government from Ankara. Law experts and lawyers lambasted this change as more interference by the Erdogan government, and filed court complaints.

Dec. 22
Journalists were banned from police headquarters and told to empty the press rooms at the judicial buildings.

Police station in Istanbul — Photo: Dickelbers/GNUFDL

Dec. 23
The Union of Bar Associations of Turkey applied to the Council of State for the cancellation of the justice police regulation change. The Chief of Istanbul Police Intelligence was called to the prosecutor’s office to testify with claims of leaking information about the investigation to the suspects. Later, a police chief from the Ankara police force’s Anti-Organized Crime and Smuggling unit was found dead in his car. His family does not believe that he committed suicide.

Dec. 24
President of the Republic Abdullah Gul declared,“If any corruption or wrongdoings are the issue, these will not be covered up, cannot be covered up.” Prime Minister Erdogan lashed out at comments made by U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a onetime Islamist ally turned rival and believed by some to be pushing prosecutors to investigate the government. Erdogan dared Gulen to speak about him by name. More corruption claims were made regarding the high-speed train project between Ankara and Istanbul.

Dec. 25
Three ministers resigned: Muammer Guler, Zafer Caglayan and Erdogan Bayraktar. The last one said the prime minister should also resign. It was leaked that Prosecutor Muammer Akkas was running another investigation and Bilal Erdogan — son of the prime minister — was among the 41 people on the list of those to be detained. However, the police did not obey the court order issued by Akkas. The prosecutor started an investigation against Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu and the newly assigned provincial police chief.

Dec. 26
Prosecutor Akkas was removed from the Corruption and Bribery operation. He made a public statement about being halted from doing his job. Shortly afterwards, Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Turan Colakkadi made a harsh counter-statement against Akkas. Later in the day, another harsh statement came from the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) on the recently changed justice police regulation being unconstitutional. Prime Minister Erdogan told the press that he was the real target of the probe that involved his son. The prime minister also announced the new cabinet on that day.

Dec. 27
After being run by Akkas for the last two years, the Corruption and Bribery investigation was taken over, and delivered to four other prosecutors. A massive protest was staged at Taksim Square in Istanbul over the corruption scandal, leading to police intervention and clashes.

Dec. 28
Another change occurred at the Istanbul police staff as the chief for press and public relations was removed from duty.

Dec. 29
The Prime Minister said the corruption allegations were aimed at hurting the country’s economy.

Dec. 30
Iranian businessman Babak Zanjani, who was accused of being in dealings with Reza Zarrab, was arrested in Iran. Zanjani denied any involvement.

Dec. 31
AKP deputy Hasan Hami Yildirim quit his party after being accused of putting pressure on the judiciary. He was the fifth senior member of the party to resign in the last two weeks.

Jan. 1
Erdogan used his New Year's address to try to rally support around himself in the face of the accusations, which he blamed on foreign sources. "I invite every one of our 76 million people to stand up for themselves, to defend democracy and to be as one against these ugly attacks on our country," he said.

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Society

The Food Truck, A Sign That The White And Wealthy Are Moving In

In San Diego, California, a researcher tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun.

Balboa Park Spring Fling Food Truck festival

San Diego Food Trucks via Facebook
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli

SAN DIEGO — Everybody, it seems, welcomes the arrival of new restaurants, cafés, food trucks and farmers markets.

What could be the downside of fresh veggies, homemade empanadas and a pop-up restaurant specializing in banh mis?

But when they appear in unexpected places – think inner-city areas populated by immigrants – they're often the first salvo in a broader effort to rebrand and remake the community. As a result, these neighborhoods can quickly become unaffordable and unrecognizable to longtime residents.

An appetite for gentrification

I live in San Diego, where I teach courses on urban and food geographies and conduct research on the relationship between food and ethnicity in urban contexts.

In recent years, I started to notice a pattern playing out in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked food options. More ethnic restaurants, street vendors, community gardens and farmers markets were cropping up. These, in turn, spurred growing numbers of white, affluent and college-educated people to venture into areas they had long avoided.

This observation inspired me to write a book, titled The $16 Taco, about how food – including what's seen as "ethnic," "authentic" or "alternative" – often serves as a spearhead for gentrification.

Take City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood where successive waves of refugees from places as far away as Vietnam and Somalia have resettled. In 2016, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice) to neighborhood residents, along with tourists and visitors from other parts of the city.

Informal street vendors are casualties.

A public-private partnership called the City Heights Community Development Corporation, together with several nonprofits, launched the initiative to increase "access to healthy and culturally appropriate food" and serve as "a business incubator for local micro-entrepreneurs," including immigrants and refugees who live in the neighborhood.

On paper, this all sounds great.

But just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors – who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets – now face heightened harassment. They've become causalities in a citywide crackdown on sidewalk vending spurred by complaints from business owners and residents in more affluent areas.

This isn't just happening in San Diego. The same tensions have been playing out in rapidly gentrifying areas like Los Angeles' Boyle Heights neighborhood, Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, New York's Queens borough and East Austin, Texas.

In all of these places, because "ethnic," "authentic" and "exotic" foods are seen as cultural assets, they've become magnets for development.

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

A call for food justice

Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation.

Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure.

It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies. Small food businesses, with their relatively low cost of entry, have been a cornerstone of ethnic entrepreneurship in American cities. And initiatives like farmers markets and street fairs don't require much in the way of public investment; instead, they rely on entrepreneurs and community-based organizations to do the heavy lifting.

In City Heights, the Community Development Corporation hosted its first annual City Heights Street Food Festival in 2019 to "get people together around table and food stalls to celebrate another year of community building." Other recent events have included African Restaurant Week, Dia de Los Muertos, New Year Lunar Festival, Soul Food Fest and Brazilian Carnival, all of which rely on food and drink to attract visitors and support local businesses.

Meanwhile, initiatives such as the New Roots Community Farm and the City Heights Farmers' Market have been launched by nonprofits with philanthropic support in the name of "food justice," with the goal of reducing racial disparities in access to healthy food and empowering residents – projects that are particularly appealing to highly educated people who value diversity and democracy.

Upending an existing foodscape

In media coverage of changing foodscapes in low-income neighborhoods like City Heights, you'll rarely find any complaints.

San Diego Magazine's neighborhood guide for City Heights, for example, emphasizes its "claim to authentic international eats, along with live music venues, craft beer, coffee, and outdoor fun." It recommends several ethnic restaurants and warns readers not to be fooled by appearances.

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against the "urban food machine"

But that doesn't mean objections don't exist.

Many longtime residents and small-business owners – mostly people of color and immigrants – have, for decades, lived, worked and struggled to feed their families in these neighborhoods. To do so, they've run convenience stores, opened ethnic restaurants, sold food in parks and alleys and created spaces to grow their own food.

All represent strategies to meet community needs in a place mostly ignored by mainstream retailers.

So what happens when new competitors come to town?

Food vendor at outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44.

Fairat44 via Instagram

Starting at a disadvantage

As I document in my book, these ethnic food businesses, because of a lack of financial and technical support, often struggle to compete with new enterprises that feature fresh façades, celebrity chefs, flashy marketing, bogus claims of authenticity and disproportionate media attention. Furthermore, following the arrival of more-affluent residents, existing ones find it increasingly difficult to stay.

My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. The listings I studied from 2019 often enticed potential buyers with lines like "shop at the local farmers' market," "join food truck festivals" and "participate in community food drives!"

San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44.

When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

Going up against the urban food machine

Longtime residents find themselves forced to compete against what I call the "urban food machine," a play on sociologist Harvey Molotch's "urban growth machine" – a term he coined more than 50 years ago to explain how cities were being shaped by a loose coalition of powerful elites who sought to profit off urban growth.

I argue that investors and developers use food as a tool for achieving the same ends.

When their work is done, what's left is a rather insipid and tasteless neighborhood, where foodscapes become more of a marketable mishmash of cultures than an ethnic enclave that's evolved organically to meet the needs of residents. The distinctions of time and place start to blur: An "ethnic food district" in San Diego looks no different than one in Chicago or Austin.

Meanwhile, the routines and rhythms of everyday life have changed so much that longtime residents no longer feel like they belong. Their stories and culture reduced to a selling point, they're forced to either recede to the shadows or leave altogether.

It's hard to see how that's a form of inclusion or empowerment.The Conversation

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Pascale Joassart-Marcelli is a Professor of Geography and Director, Urban Studies and Food Studies Programs at San Diego State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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