In their fight against ride-hailing app Uber, taxi drivers of Istanbul risk infamy with their questionable methods to confront the popular app. Add this to an infamous altercation caught on camera, showing a taxi driver violently pulling a woman out of his car, and a growing opposition to malign drivers is catching up on social media.
Istanbul's taxi drivers, once praised for their gentlemanly ways, are nowadays loathed figures and for them, it is the result of a secret campaign by Uber which faced opposition in Europe for hurting the by taxi drivers' business. For their fares, it is their rude manners, scams, picking wealthier tourists over locals that fuel the hatred apparent on social media.
Threats and acts of outright violence against Uber drivers do not help either. Police yesterday detained two taxi drivers for threatening an Uber driver in city's Esenyurt district. Images of the incident circulated on social media showed an Uber van surrounded by taxis outside a shopping mall in the district. Doğan News Agency reported that two men were detained for threat, insult and property damage.
In another case last week, a group of taxi drivers assaulted a black van they thought was an Uber car. No one was injured but the altercation outside a terminal at Sabiha Gökçen Airport drew the public ire. Over the past weeks, especially shortly before the start of a trial of the ride-hailing company for the accusation of conducting illegal business, attacks blamed on taxi drivers have gone up sharply. Taxi drivers claim that the company takes advantage of the lack of inspections and legal loopholes to freely operate in the country, where its services are confined to Istanbul currently. Police occasionally fine Uber drivers and users in routine checks but the platform enjoys virtual immunity as it basically acts like an online intermediary. A ruling in the lawsuit filed by taxi drivers may change that, however.
As they wait for a verdict in the trial scheduled for next month, taxi drivers do not shy away from openly threatening the platform's drivers and more, inciting riots. Eyüp Aksu, head of the taxi drivers' association, said they could "burn down someplace" in case of any verdict siding with the ride-hailing platform. A similar statement by Ahmet Çavuş, head of a taxi association based at Sabiha Gökçen Airport, reflects the seething rage of drivers. He said that although they felt sorry for Uber drivers assaulted by taxi drivers, they were "not pleased" that Uber picked up to 1,000 fares from the airport. "If it is legal, authorities should say so. If it is not, they should take action. The police should intervene," Çavuş said, insisting that taxi drivers are "not terrorists as some people imply."
Canan Ay may disagree. The young woman was walking on the wrong side of the road Monday when an angry taxi driver got out of his car and attacked the woman, as she claimed in an interview with İhlas News Agency yesterday. In a cellphone footage circulated on the social media, Ay is seen dragged from the back door of a taxi in Istanbul's Ümraniye district. Violently yanked from the backseat by the unnamed driver, she fell down head first to the ground. Quickly back on her feet, she tried to chase the driver as he sped away. Ay said she was walking to the local bakery with her 10-year-old sister and the taxi driver was apparently angered at them for walking on a lane for vehicles.
"He first honked and then stopped the car and swore at me. We were arguing when he got out and head-butted me. I tried to call the police and thought he would flee. I opened the back door and leaped in to stop him from fleeing. He grabbed my legs and pulled me out," she recounted the moments of horror. Ay, who suffered some bruises, later filed a complaint with the police.