By Seda Sezer
Military coups are rarely good for business but at least one small sector of Turkey’s economy has seen a roaring trade since a failed army revolt on July 15 – the nation’s flag sellers.
Flag manufacturers are working flat out to meet surging demand from patriotic Turks after a faction in the armed forces tried to topple President Tayyip Erdogan and his government on Friday evening.
The coup quickly crumbled but Erdogan urged people to take to the streets daily in support of his government. He accuses an elderly U.S.-based Muslim cleric of masterminding the coup and has begun a series of wide-ranging purges of suspected sympathisers in the army, police and other state institutions.
“From the first day around 1.5 million flags were sold. I expect another five million to be sold in the coming days,” said
Orkun Altier, owner of flag producer Gozde Bayrak.
“Teachers, blacksmiths, canteen operators, everyone wants flags at the moment. I don’t even have one left for myself to hang in my own home,” he said.
Manufacturers say they expect up to 10 million flags to be sold in the coming days in Turkey, which has a total population of nearly 80 million people. They say this would mark the highest demand since Turkey’s soccer team made the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup.
Even in calmer times the Turkish flag – a white star and crescent moon against a red background representing the blood of martyrs – is venerated in this proudly nationalistic country. It is a crime to damage or tear the flag or show it any disrespect.
“We had quite a lot in stock, but they have all gone. We have started up new production…Demand is huge. Our public is really so sensitive about this subject,” said Selahattin Afsar of Karanfil Bayrak, a flag-maker in the western city of Bursa.
“Personally I was so sad for my country on the night of the coup attempt that I couldn’t think of selling flags even though I had so many of them then.”
The flag can be seen flying from even more buildings and vehicles than usual since the attempted coup. Flags sell for as little as 3 lira ($1) in Turkey.
“We have increased production but it takes time to make them,” said Izzet Adar, owner of Aybayrak, who has been making flags for the past 25 years. “They are factory-made so it takes two to three days to produce them.
“Basically everyone in Turkey wants flags.”