One of the defining achievements of Justice and Development Party’s tenure in power in Turkey has been forcing the country’s once omnipotent army firmly back into the barracks and out of political life. Yet the military's economic power has been largely left untouched.
Whether you buy a chocolate bar, insurance, or a car in Turkey, it is likely that it was produced by a company linked to the OYAK, the Turkish Armed Forces Assistance and Pension Fund.
“It remains a bizarre, unaccountable institution," said Lale Kemal, an expert on the Turkish army and Ankara bureau chief of the Taraf newspaper, a national publication critical of the military’s previously unchecked power. "It is like the old days of Latin American countries, or in China or in Egypt, where you have the army owning companies, which has nothing to do with the rule of law or democracy."
OYAK’s dealings are now coming under growing political scrutiny. In June, Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Huseyin Celik announced that parliament will scrutinize the pension fund’s “existence and function.”
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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.