Angry Istanbul taxi drivers seek to block Uber

Taxis are parked near Istanbul courthouse as taxi drivers demonstrate against ride-sharing firm Uber prior to the second hearing of a lawsuit opened against the transport company. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2018
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Angry Istanbul taxi drivers seek to block Uber

ISTANBUL: An Istanbul court on Monday began hearing a case against Uber brought by the city’s taxi drivers seeking to have the ride-hailing app blocked, as tensions mount in Turkey over its popularity.
The suit brought by the main association representing taxi drivers for Istanbul is the latest legal headache for the fast-growing but controversial Uber which has already seen its license withdrawn in London.
Dozens of taxi drivers held a noisy protest outside the main courthouse in Istanbul where the case was heard, brandishing placards including “we don’t want the global thief.”
Lawyers for the Taxi Drivers Association told the court they wanted the app blocked in the city. The court said it would wait for a report from the association and adjourned the next hearing until June 4.
Tensions over the growing popularity of Uber have spread in Turkey, in some cases resulting in violence.
On Saturday, shots were fired at an Uber vehicle in Istanbul’s Kucukcekmece district but the driver was unhurt.
Uber drivers have also received false calls from people pretending to be passengers who then beat them up, according to a report in the Turkish newspaper Haberturk last week.
Eyup Aksu, the head of the main taxi drivers guild in Istanbul, slammed Uber as “pirates” and warned that the taxi drivers were ready to act if decisions went against them.
“If the judiciary takes a contrary decision then our patience is sapped. Taxi drivers are ready to do anything for their bread,” he said outside the courthouse.
Taxi drivers gathered at the court threw bottles of water at vehicles they suspected of being driven by Uber drivers, the Dogan news agency said.
The yellow taxis of Istanbul form the transport backbone of the city, with some 18,000 vehicles helping move commuters and tourists in a megapolis where public transport can be patchy.
Some complain Istanbul taxi drivers can be abrasive and prone to ripping off tourists. But most drivers, who usually rent their car from the license holder, are doing their best to earn a living honestly in a tough city.
Taxi drivers around the world have complained that Uber has made inroads into their business but the company’s biggest trouble has been in London where Uber lost its license over criminal record checks for drivers.
It is still allowed to operate in the British capital pending an appeal. New chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi is seeking to clean up the company’s reputation worldwide after replacing ousted co-founder Travis Kalanick last year.


Tortured, persecuted, deported: a tribe’s ordeal at the hands of Qatar

Updated 54 min 49 sec ago
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Tortured, persecuted, deported: a tribe’s ordeal at the hands of Qatar

  • The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani
  • Another member of the tribe twice lost his job at Qatar Petroleum, in 1999 and 2003, simply because he was a member of the Al-Ghufran tribe

GENEVA: Members of a prominent tribe told an audience in Geneva on Thursday how they were stripped of their nationality and suffered torture, forced displacement and deportation in a 22-year campaign of systematic persecution by authorities in Qatar.
“My story is about wanting my rights, and I hope my story reaches your hearts,” said Hamed Al-Ghufrani, whose family was forced to flee Qatar for the UAE in 1996.
Another member of the tribe twice lost his job at Qatar Petroleum, in 1999 and 2003, simply because he was a member of the Al-Ghufran tribe, and had his nationality revoked in 2005. 
His 14-year-old son spoke of being a “stateless person” and called on the UN to end the persecution so he could return to Qatar.
The press conference at the Swiss Press Club, organized by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, came two days after the Al-Ghufran delegation staged a protest in front of the UN building in Geneva during the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The tribe’s ordeal began in 1996, when some of their members voiced support for Sheikh Khalifa Al-Thani, the Qatari emir deposed the previous year by his son Hamad, father of the current emir, Sheikh Tamim.
About 800 Al-Ghufran families, more than 6,000 people, were stripped of their citizenship and had their property confiscated. Many remain stateless, both in Qatar and in neighboring Gulf countries.
“They have taken away our social, political and economic rights,” said
Jabir bin Saleh Al-Ghufrani, a tribal elder. “The Al-Ghufran tribe has been subjected to unjust treatment.
“I left on a vacation in 1996, and now I can never go back to my country. I can go to any place on this earth, but not my home, not Qatar.”
Members of the delegation produced passports, certificates and other documents to show that their right to Qatari citizenship was being denied.
“I ask for my rights. Our people have been asking for our rights for a very long time now and no one has even explained to us why this is happening to us,” said Hamad Khaled Al-Araq.
Jaber Hamad Al-Araq, the tribe member fired twice by Qatar Petroleum, said: “The consequences of revoking our citizenship came in waves. They took away health care, education and public services. They took away all the tools that would allow us to live in Qatar with dignity, as human beings.”
Many of the tribe have suffered from depression and other medical conditions as a result of their ill-treatment. “I was rejected many times for jobs because of the injustice we face,” said Jaber Mohamed Al-Ghufrani. “They would reject me, the interior ministry office would reject me, just for being from the tribe. We are marginalized, without value, and left on the sidelines in our own country.
“I am responsible for my family, consisting of my wife and children, and we have faced many injustices that led us to have psychological trauma. We have suffered enough.”
Abdul Hadi Jaber Al-Ghufrani, another member of the tribe, told the press conference: “All members of the Al-Ghufran tribe without exception suffered from the decision to revoke their nationality.
“Those who remained in Qatar are unable to work, travel, or act like normal human beings, they cannot trade, they cannot even give their identity.
“Those who were expelled and forcibly displaced live in exile. They cannot apply or work in any job where they can get money for they basic needs, and most of them have no official identity papers. They can no longer see their families and loved ones.
“We are here to demand our rights and we will not stop until we get our rights. From today for the next 20 years, we will not stop.”
The youngest member of the delegation, Mohammed Ali Amer Al-Ghufrani Al-Marri, 14, said: “My nationality was revoked when I was less than one year old.
“I did not have the right to grow up in my own country, I was not given the right to stay there. I wish to return to my country and enjoy my rights as a citizen.”