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"Useless Man" Ishak Alaton looks at business past

In a new two-volume biography, Mr. Alaton, chairman of the Alarko Group, remembers the difficulties of being a Jewish businessman in Muslim Turkey, and recalls the devastating "Wealth Tax" and the murky murder of his business partner.

"Useless Man" Ishak Alaton looks at business past

 

 

By Metin Demirsar
 
Istanbul (Dunya) – Ishak Alaton, chairman of the Alarko Group, is one of Turkey's most respected businessmen and head of an energy to contracting conglomerate with a 2011 net income of $60.117 million on assets of $1.094 billion.
He founded the Alarko Group with his partner, the late Uzeyir Garih, in 1954. The group, which developed many top real estate projects and carried out major construction projects in Turkey and abroad, produces split air conditioners in Turkey in partnership with the Carrier Group of the U.S..  
But in 'Luzumsuz Adam' (The Useless Man), the second of a two-book biography, he recalls the almost insurmountable hurdles he had to overcome to succeed as a Jewish businessman in Muslim Turkey. The first volume is "Luzumlu Adam" (The Useful Man).
In the books, written by journalist Mehmet Gundem and printed by Alpha Publishing of Istanbul, Mr. Alaton describes how his family lost its entire fortune during World War Two, when the government suddenly and without warning slapped a prohibitive 'Wealth Tax' on the country's religious minorities, in keeping with the spirit of the times. 
His father, Hayim Alaton, until then a prominent businessman, spent a year at a forced labor camp in eastern Turkey because he could not pay his tax debt, only to return home a broken man. 
Mr. Alaton remembers how he was one of the few young Jewish lads that carried relief supplies to the ship Struma, carrying a horde of Romanian Jewish refugees, when it docked in the Bosphorus during the war years. The refugees weren't permitted to land in Turkey, and the ship was sunk with its 768 passengers, by a Russian submarine in the Black Sea.
A section of the book is devoted to the shocking murder of his long-time partner Mr. Garih, 72, in the summer of 2001, which still remains murky in most minds. 
 
Landwalls of Istanbul
Nezih Basgelen, Turkey's leading writer and publisher of books on archaeology, has brought out a new book, 'The Landwalls of Istanbul,' a pictorial guide to the 6.5- km long defensive line that stretches from the Golden Horn to the Sea of Marmara.
Largely built in the 5th century by Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II and repaired and restored several times after the Ottoman conquest of the city in 1453, the land walls continued to serve as Istanbul's urban symbol and defense system.
The 96-page book, put out by Mr. Basgelen's Archeology and Art Publications, examines each section of the walls, including the Tekfur Palace, where the governor of Constantinople, lived and the Seven Towers, a section added by the Turks that was used as a dungeon for political prisoners.
 
Individualism and Democracy 
Why individualism has failed to develop in Turkey, a country where the cultural history is the richest in the world, is the topic of a new study and book by Nurten Ozkoray, a leading intellectual of the country.
Published by Idea Politika Yayinlari, Mrs. Ozkoray's 149-page "Individualism and Democracy in Turkey," is her thesis for her newly completed M.A. in sociology from the Bosphorus University. It is based on surveys and interviews with 1,000 persons in 11 provinces, representing a fair distribution of income groups, social classes, rural-urban, educational and age groups and men and women.
Mrs. Ozkoray, a former journalist and a communications consultant for the government and private sector, found that "an imposing emphasis on nationalism, supremacy of the nation over the individual, limitations on diversity of identities, monotype citizen model resulted in infertile environment for the development of the individual."
The comparison group surveyed -- students of the Bosphorus University (the former American Robert College) – "were privileged in being partly protected in a liberal environment to actualize themselves by developing their individual traits," she wrote 
"It is evident that if pluralism had been at the core of the political philosophy, the peoples of this land would be far more creative and happy as well as prosperous," Mrs. Ozkoray said.
 
Harem Secrets
Alum Bati's 'Harem Secrets' is a thriller set in Istanbul in 1530, a time of turbulence in the Ottoman Empire. MVT Yayinlari of Istanbul published the 285-page book.
Sultan Suleyman's armies faced a humiliating retreat from the gates of Vienna. His troops are restless. Spies, cut-throats and rebellious troops are out to undermine his rule. To top it all, the beautiful Shireen, treasurer of the Imperial Harem, dies in mysterious circumstances. Suleyman assigns Adam Pasha, the chief justice of the palace, to investigate the death. 
This Mr. Bati's first novel. British educated, he now lives in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he is a legal adviser and academician.

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