It is becoming harder and harder to stand up against the tide of oppression in Turkey. It's time for the west to interveneby Tan Pinar / November 3, 2017 / Leave a comment
First, they came for the Kurds, then for the judges, then for the journalists. Then for those advocating human rights and peace. The trajectory is precipitate, and last week’s indictment of Osman Kavala a reminder of how far Turkey has travelled into the abyss.
Kavala, shaggy and lanky, has lived in the fast lane. In the early 1980s, he was plucked from master studies in New York—he had graduated in economics from Manchester—to take over the family trading company. The early death of his father, Mehmet, thrust him into the hustling with bureaucrats which characterised 1980s Ankara. His father had at one time been in the same league as Vehbi Koç, whose grandsons now run the largest company in the country, and he left a solid legacy. Osman brought charm, youth and energy to the family group, supporting the efforts of Prime Minister Turgut Özal to open the long-closed Turkish economy, and turning this into some major contracts. As an executive of the Kavala Group, he invested in the Kavaklıdere vineyards in central Ankara and put together the finance and team to build the modern hotel the capital needed—though soon found his Sheraton’s 311 rooms jousting with the 309 rooms of the neighbouring Hilton.
Everything seemed to represent an opportunity—and this was where his problems started. Some of the projects he launched were visionary, not least his founding shareholding in Turkcell, now Turkey’s leading mobile operator. Others did well for a time, such as the launch of a Turkish edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. Many helped the progressive group he had assembled around him, including the publishing house, İletişim, a force on the left, and, later, the newspaper BirGün. He loved the creative side of business, but was not good at the drudge of implementation and, rarely saying no to his friends’ ideas, spread himself thinly. By the early 2000s, he had put business largely aside and started devoting himself to what had always driven him, the desire to help the downtrodden. In this, though not in the funds available, he has indeed been a Turkish Soros.