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A New Turkish Idiom
"Ali Dibo"

In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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Birth of a new Turkish Idiom
Ali Dibo, in the flesh...
Ali Dibo was a real person....
Click for image enlargement.
Thanks to Hürriyet Gazetesi - 29 June 2006

"Ali Dibo" -- The birthing of a new Turkish idiom

In the last several months a new term for 'political favoritism' has emerged in Turkey. The term is "Ali Dibo Şirketi" (Ali Dibo Business-Company) -- or just plain "Ali Dibo" for short. And it refers to any company (usually a local municipal one) that 'wins' business contracts mainly because of its political ties to the ruling AKP political party.

In Hatay (in southern Turkey near Syria) where the idiom was first coined, they go a step further -- using 'Ali Dibo' to mean a company established by the (religious-right) AKP that receives special (religiously-motivated) treatment in order to survive. It's what Turks sometimes call an "Eş, dost, yandaş şirketi" (A spouse, friend, or partisan's company).

But these Ali Dibo companies (which now symbolize contract award improprieties in many AKP-controlled municipalities) get their name from a very unsuspecting source.

The original Ali Dibo (1864-1936) was born and raised in Hatay. And, as an entrepreneurial businessman, he was the only fish-products merchant there who traded outside the country -- in Egypt and Syria (especially in Damascus and Aleppo). Which brought him fame and fortune -- and nationwide respect. So much so that Ataturk himself invited Ali Bey to become a member of Parliament -- in a personally written letter that Ali Dibo's family still display on special occasions.

And though Ali Dibo was unable to accept Ataturk's offer because of health reasons, the two remained in cordial contact -- the statesman and the generous businessman... with nary a hint of impropriety between them... as long as you don't count the occasional pouch of gold that Ali would send to help Ataturk 'meet the expenses of State'. A sort of personal income tax payment, if you will.

Which is why Ali Dibo's daughter Hatice Koç (who still lives at age 72 in Hatay) and grand-daughter Filiz Koç Özdemir (now living in Istanbul) are so upset about the current-day connection of their father/grandfather's name to improper government contract-letting. And they've raised the issue in the national newspapers in order to clear his name.

But they're not the only ones who'd like to quash the new 'Ali Dibo' idiom. So would the ruling AKP government... Unfortunately, they're going about it in a rather ham-fisted way.

Just a couple of weeks ago, for example, they expelled one of their own party members, Fuat Geçen -- a Member of Parliament from Hatay. Why? Because he had exposed an "Ali Dibo" company in his jurisdiction -- which had brought further unwanted attention to the AKP's politically-baised contract-award methods.

Fuat Bey's expulsion caused an uproar in the secular newspapers -- whose columnists accused the AKP government of trying to muzzle its own 'whistle blowers'. Which seems a pretty accurate accusation from where we sit...
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