The leader of an Istanbul taxi union claimed on Thursday that the ride-sharing service Uber is “officially a terrorist group” whose customers are “traitors” to Turkey.
“Uber was founded in San Francisco. That is the place where the traitors who shoot and kill my soldiers in Afrin breed,” said Istanbul Taxi Drivers Union leader İrfan Öztürk. “Both those who use Uber and those who drive Uber vehicles are traitors.”
The Turkish military invaded Afrin, northern Syria, in January as part of Operation Olive Branch, a military endeavor to remove the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ) from the Turkish border. It expanded the operation into the city center a month later and has since taken control of the province, threatening to invade nearby Manbij, where U.S. troops are stationed, next. The YPG is a key U.S. ally, responsible for much of the fighting against the Islamic State in Syria.
“Uber equals the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK, Uber equals DAESH [Islamic State]. It is officially a terrorist group,” he continued. “It is a global thief.”
Tensions between Istanbul taxi drivers and Uber have escalated in recent months as the union seeks to prevent the service from operating in the city. In a recent court case, drivers alleged that Uber was endangering their livelihoods and presenting a risk to customers.
“Our case has entered the 10th Commercial Court of First Instance,” said the United Taxi Drivers Association president Eyüp Aksu. “We demand that Uber vehicles be taken out of service. These are labor thieves. Today is the second hearing. We are waiting for positive results.”
Aksu has previously described Uber as a Jewish conspiracy, blaming its rise on a “global thieving Jewish lobby” that is “carrying out commercial taxi piracy in Turkey.”
There have also been repeated incidents of violence and intimidation against the city’s Uber drivers as licensed taxi drivers take out their frustrations.
“My drivers are scared. Cab drivers harass and attack them everywhere in Istanbul,” 56-year-old Bekir Cambaz, an owner of 52 Uber vehicles told Bloomberg last month. “One of my drivers was just hospitalized due to brain concussion after getting beaten up at the main bus terminal.”
According to the Economist, many Uber rides are more costly than using a traditional taxi. Trips from to the airport can cost double the price “simply by offering cleaner cars and better service.”
Since its inception in 2009, Uber has caused a backlash from traditional taxi drivers by undercutting their prices, leading to protests and legal challenges in cities around the world. The service has already lost its license in countries such as the United Kingdom, Israel, and Germany.
The company has previously expressed its contempt for Breitbart News, and last year filed a lawsuit against the advertising agency Fetch for failing to remove their advertisements, claiming they want “nothing to do with” the website.