Turks bicker about time change

Turkey's government has decided to remain on summer time permanently, adding another hour of difference between Turkey and Europe, but putting Turkey in the same time zone as Mecca and Medina.

al-monitor The sun sets over the Ottoman-era Sulaimaniyah Mosque in Istanbul, Jan. 8, 2014.  Photo by REUTERS/Murad Sezer.

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prayer, mecca, football, energy, economy, daylight saving time, business, akp

Sep 13, 2016

For years, Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has been advocating "permanent summer time" for the country. With a decision made Sept. 7, this wish has come true.

Like many countries, Turkey moved its clocks ahead one hour in March and back an hour in October. But this fall, time will march on because of a request from Minister of Energy Berat Albayrak, the president's son-in-law. A new government decree nullifies the practice of moving clocks back an hour, effective Oct. 30.

By making daylight savings time permanent, Turkey will be at Greenwich Mean Time plus three hours instead of plus two hours. The time difference with Eastern and Central Europe will now be two hours and with Britain, three hours.

The last ministerial attempt to keep the "extra" hour came in 2013 by then-Minister of Energy Taner Yildiz. His proposal was rejected because of potential problems with stock markets, global trade, exports and synchronization with Europe. However, Albayrak said on his official Twitter account there will be year-round energy savings and any synchronization problems will be eliminated quickly.

Opponents claim there are religious motives behind the decision. Turkey will now be in the same time zone with Saudi Arabia and most Middle Eastern and Islamic countries. Theologians have been constantly bickering over prayer times, Ramadan hours, and the beginning and end of Eid holidays. With the new arrangement, prayer times will be the same as in Mecca and Medina.

There were also objections that the real intention of the change is to distance Turkey from Europe. Some critics even said Turkey's switch to Saudi time might well be a prelude to changing Turkey's weekend to Fridays instead of Sundays.

Ostensibly, the idea of a time change in summer was to save energy and boost the economy; the claim is that the practice saves about $500 million in energy annually.

But business executives and exporters say by making summer time permanent, the economy will be losing billions of dollars. Hikmet Tanriverdi, the president of Istanbul Ready-Made Garment Exporters Association, claims that by increasing the time difference with EU countries, Turkey will face serious problems in exports, business contacts and market transactions.

To Tanriverdi, this decision will distance Turkey from Europe and make it just another Middle Eastern country.

With the new setup, when London starts its business day at 9 a.m., private companies and official bodies in Turkey will be on their lunch breaks. Turkish institutions will either have to extend their working hours or make their staff work overtime to harmonize with Europe. Investors in London will not be able to conduct any transactions after 3:30 p.m. in Istanbul. Students and workers will have to head to schools and work in darkness before dawn breaks.

The decree will really shake up sports schedules. The European football body UEFA starts Champions’ League games at 9:45 p.m. and European League games at 8 p.m. and 10:05 p.m. With the new hours, Turkish teams will be starting their games at 10:45 p.m., 9 p.m. and 11:05 p.m. local time. Games will end at midnight or in the early hours of the next morning. In major cities such as Ankara and Istanbul, fans won’t be able to return home before 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.

There are now reports that that UEFA is planning to adjust kickoff times for Turkish teams to follow Russian schedules and ask Turkish teams to play their European Cup games at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. The problem with that is in major cities such as Istanbul, commuters will be on their way home from work or school when the games start.

Making the summer time permanent in Turkey is likely to generate many more grievances.

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