The Divan and Gezi Park

divanWith good reason, Turks take pride in their traditions of hospitality.  And seldom will you meet any one who has visited Turkey from abroad who will not mention the real warmth that Turks can show to visitors.

Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that Divan, a Turkish hotel has been awarded a “hotel innovation award” this year.  Admittedly, however, it was not the warmth of the hotel’s service, the quality of its rooms, or its fine restaurants that won it this accolade; rather, it was the sanctuary that it provided Turkish protestors fleeing police violence and the excessive use of tear gas this past June.

As the New York Times reported at the time,

The luxury Divan Hotel, on the edge of Gezi Park, became a refuge for protesters fleeing the violence. Hundreds of protesters, wearing hard hats and gas masks, filled the lobby, where glass cases of cuff links and silk handkerchiefs were smeared with milk that the injured used to clear their eyes of tear gas. As some kept up their anti-Erdogan chants in the lobby, ambulances arrived and medical workers shuttled in with oxygen tanks and other medical supplies.

For its part, the Turkish government roundly criticized the owners of the park for their actions.  Prime Minister Erdogan reportedly complained of hotels harboring “terrorists.” Elsewhere, Erdogan said,

They say, ‘Police attacked the hotel.’ They didn’t attack out of the blue. Those who were fighting with the police went there. The owners of that place were great hosts. The police then entered the place. You know it is against the law to aid and abet. This is actually a crime of abetting

Audits of Divan’s mother company soon followed, with many suggesting that the investigations were retribution for Divan’s actions during the crisis.  It isn’t always easy to be a good host.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

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