Turkey's mega İstanbul Airport inaugurated

The inauguration ceremony of İstanbul's new airport was held on October 29 amidst unresolved tender corruption claims and tens of construction workers jailed for demanding better working conditions
Wednesday, 31 October 2018 01:25

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the name of the new airport in İstanbul is to be İstanbul Airport, during his speech at the opening ceremony of the first phase of the airport. 

Erdoğan said "Such a work for such a priceless city. We announce its name as İstanbul." The inauguration ceremony of the new airport was held on October 29, the day of the 95th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey.

Erdoğan also noted that Atatürk Airport in Yeşilköy district of İstanbul will be closed for regular commercial flights though keeping its status as an airport. Atatürk Airport was named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.

Erdoğan added that the first phase of İstanbul Airport is expected to host 90 million passengers per year and that the other phases of the airport will be completed in a 10 years period.

Criticising harshly the ones claiming security risks regarding the airport project, Erdoğan said "Why would this place collapse anyway? Do you know how many piles had been driven into the earth here? These are all done with the technological opportunities we have." The security claims Erdoğan raging against are based on the news of a giant pit that occurred at the construction land early in August, raising doubts in the public opinion about possible future landslide due to the earth structure.  

Mehmet Cengiz, the chairman of the executive board of İGA, also made a pampering speech praising Erdoğan as a "leader who likes to raise the bar." Cengiz is the owner of Cengiz Construction that undertook several public tenders during the AKP government's rule and he is infamous for his tape recordings released during the 17-25 December 2013 corruption and bribery operations. In those recordings, Cengiz was heard saying "We will f..k the people of this country."


During his speech, Erdoğan noted that the 4,5 billion Euro worth financing guarantee of the first phase of the new airport had been provided by state banks Ziraat, Halkbank and Vakıf Bank and that he considered this "very significant."

However, Aykut Erdoğdu, an MP of the parliamentary main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), noted that the financing guarantee can only be provided by external credits and the ruling AKP government solved this situation by getting the fund from the foreign branches of these state banks. Erdoğdu also added that the operating firms İGA should have paid the yearly rent worth of 1 billion and 40 million Euro to the General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMİ) and asked whether this amount has been paid. İGA is the name of the consortium comprised of the companies Cengiz, Kolin, Limak, Kalyon, and Mapa and it is responsible for the construction and operation of the airport for 25 years.

In September, Erdoğdu had made important statements regarding a tender corruption claim at the airport construction tender, alleging that by means of a 2 years delay for the construction activities following the tender on May 2012, the authorities managed to protract both construction and operation periods for two years in favour of operator companies and to the detriment of the state. "In this way, 2 billion 90 million euros were seized from our people’s pockets and transferred into the pockets of these building contractors," Erdoğdu said back then.

Faik Öztrak, the spokesperson of the CHP party, also pointed at some important issues regarding the guarantees given to operating firms. Öztrak said "The operating firms had been guaranteed 342 billion Euro income from international passengers for the first 12 years. However, Turkey's Court of Accounts says 6,3 billion Euro income was guaranteed for 12 years in the report of the General Directorate of State Airports Authority (DHMİ). Who says the truth?"


As the inauguration ceremony of the new airport infamous for occupational murders and poor working conditions was held, 33 airport construction workers are still arrested. Hundreds of employees from the airport were taken into custody on 15 September after protesting and striking over labour violations during the rush to open the airport on 29 October. 

Workers at the airport had made complaints several times ranging from violations of labour safety which led to dozens of deaths on the site to lack of properly-organised transport to take them to and from the new airport.

The workers refused to work several times as their salaries were not paid for two months. In February 2018, more than 1500 workers had blocked the roads to protest bad working conditions and long working hours to complete the airport construction. Workers had also complained about the poor food at the site, bed bugs in their sleeping quarters and delayed salaries. Tens of thousands of subcontracted workers working under 1500 firms are employed for the third airport project.

The construction of Istanbul’s third airport has drawn continuous controversy due to its great damage to the environment including deforestation, a loss of biomass and even negative effects on marine species as well.