The taxi cabs versus Uber debacle has escalated yet again.
This time, the leader of the Istanbul taxi union is claiming that Uber is “officially a terrorist group” and anyone who is using the ride-sharing service are “traitors” to Turkey.
The union is taking Uber to court claiming the company is running an unlicensed taxi service and endangering their livelihoods. They are demanding that the app be shut down in the city.
Taxi drivers in Istanbul have to pay around 1.5 million lira ($385,000) for number plates or have to “borrow” plates and pay high monthly fees. While Uber is not subjected to these costs.
On Monday, hundreds of Istanbul taxi drivers gathered in front of the city courthouse in protest of Uber as the first hearing took place.
Since Uber entered the market in Turkey in 2014, many taxi drivers decided to become Uber drivers instead. However, there have been several cases reported of Uber drivers being threatened and some even beaten by cab drivers.
“My drivers are scared. Cab drivers harass and attack them everywhere in Istanbul,” said Bekir Cambaz, owner of 52 Uber vehicles to Bloomberg last month. “One of my drivers was just hospitalized due to brain concussion after getting beaten up at the main bus terminal.
“We are appalled by the violence and are doing everything we can to support (our) drivers,” said Uber in a statement.
Like in most cities, customers have rallied with Uber and other ride-sharing apps for improving the quality of car transportation services.
“Public sentiment on social media appears to be overwhelmingly in favor of Uber, with “#idon’tusetaxis” and “#don’ttouchuber” becoming trending topics in Turkish,” writes Reuters. “Some users of Uber have said they are fed up with what they call the rough manners and reckless driving of conventional cabbies, the circuitous, fare-inflating routes they take and the stench of cigarettes inside their vehicles.”
The unions deny that attacks on Uber drivers have occurred and have been merely staged in an effort to persuade the public to support Uber.
“The reported incidents are plots and provocations done by Uber drivers in order to influence the case,” said Eyüp Aksu, the United Taxi Drivers Association president.
Istanbul Taxi Drivers Union leader İrfan Öztürk publically condemned Uber and anyone using the service.
“Uber was founded in San Francisco. That is the place where the traitors who shoot and kill my soldiers in Afrin breed. Both those who use Uber and those who drive Uber vehicles are traitors,” said Öztürk. “Uber equals the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK, Uber equals DAESH. It is officially a terrorist group … It is a global thief.”
The next hearing for Istanbul Taxi Drivers Union versus Uberis set for June.
The United Taxi Drivers Association is also going after Uber too.
“Our case has entered the 10th Commercial Court of First Instance,” said Aksu. “We demand that Uber vehicles be taken out of service. These are labor thieves.”