ISTANBUL – Eighteen thousand legal taxis and at least twenty-five thousand illegal ones: Istanbul taxi drivers protested today against their unlicensed colleagues. Their most important demand was more severe punishments for illegal drivers. However, many Instanbul residents think that the licensed cabbies should first try a bit of introspection.
It’s the first time that taxi drivers have protested so massively against their illegal colleagues. Musa Kirk has been driving his own cab now for twenty years, and he has seen the situation get worse: ‘My taxi rank is at the airport, and there the illegal drivers even have their own rank now. It’s not allowed, but the police are just looking on and doing nothing. But what can they really do? What use is a hundred lira (45 euro) fine? I want a law that makes it possible to confiscate an illegal taxi immediately.’
An Istanbul city newspaper today replied to the legal drivers: they should ask themselves why the public would turn their backs on legal drivers. The paper sums it up: they refuse short rides, don’t take the shortest route, drive recklessly, fight for customers, behave badly to their clientele and don’t know the roads. The paper goes from one driver to another. Musa Kirk: ‘Yes, such drivers do exist, but it’s only a small minority and often it’s the guys who don’t own a taxi but drive for somebody else. They have to earn a lot on a day to cover the costs and make some money.’
Mustafa Yenidede, dressed in a suit, adds: ‘Look, this is also how I dress when I work. I behave myself. And the legal drivers will automatically behave better when the illegal drivers are dealt with properly.’ The notion that the market for illegal drivers will shrink when the service of legal drivers improves is rejected by these cabbies. Yenidede says: ‘The illegal drivers are the core of the problem.’
The protesting drivers got support from two opposition parties, one of which is the biggest opposition party, the CHP. The Istanbul mayor, from the governing AKP party, hasn’t yet reacted to the complaints, and for now there are no plans in the capital, Ankara, to change the taxi law.