Dumped All Crypto Currency on Thumb Drive. Then he disappeared


Faruk was born in February 1994, the youngest of three. He was different from his brother, Güven, and his sister, Serap. They grew up camping, playing video games, and cooking together. His friends always told their jokes. His parents owned a printing and copying shop in the city of Kocaeli, down the street from their home. They were careful Muslims who gave their children meaningful names: “trust” (Güven), “water” (Serap), and “one who distinguishes between good and evil” (Faruk).

Kocaeli is an industrial port city located 100 kilometers east of Istanbul surrounded by tobacco and sugar plantations, petrochemical plants, and paper mills. In the past, Roman emperors lived there, and their crumbling fortifications still surround the area. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Kocaeli became a center for manufacturing, and its inhabitants disrupted the newly formed Republic of Turkey into a revolutionary movement.

When Özer was born, Turkey’s economy was in dire straits. Economic instability, reckless lending, and political corruption led to three-way inflation. The instability of the lira threatened the salvation of all his people. Many people moved their household wealth into foreign currency deposits, so that by the end of the year, 50 percent of Turkey’s bank deposits were in foreign currency. A year ago, that number was just 1 percent.

The same month Özer was born, a charismatic speaker with a kind look and a sweeping mustache began campaigning on the streets of Istanbul wearing a paisley tie. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan criticized the elite who led the country to the brink of economic collapse. A devout Muslim, he would walk the streets of his hometown of Kasımpaşa, the hardscrabble district where he grew up selling simit, or sesame bread, promising to change things. In a disappointing election, he became the mayor of Istanbul.

At the same time, two Turkish businessmen founded Turkcell, the country’s first mobile telecommunications company. (This was a year and a half before the same technology was rolled out in the US.) By 2003, Erdoğan was elected prime minister, ushering in a decade of rapid growth that foreign observers called Turkey’s “Silent Revolution”. Unlike his predecessors, he managed the merchant’s glasses, introducing high interest rates throughout the country and finally fighting inflation in Turkey. His pro-business rhetoric strengthened the middle class and put Turkey on the path to the European Union.

Özer also caught the heart of an entrepreneur at an early age. As a middle-aged teenager, he worked part-time after school at his parents’ printing shop. “Since I was a child, I wanted to do my own business, no matter what kind of business it was,” he said. At the end of his sophomore year in high school, he decided that further education would not lead him to that dream, so he dropped out.

By 2013, Turkey’s gross domestic product had nearly tripled, the lira was above the dollar, and the country was negotiating to join the EU. BtcTurk, Turkey’s first crypto exchange (and the country’s fourth), was preparing to launch. Then, in May of that year, a group of activists gathered at Gezi Park in Istanbul to protest plans to renovate a shopping mall with Ottoman-era architecture. They ruled not only on the death of the green space but also on the glory of Turkish Islam in the past in the self-proclaimed group. The police brutally harassed the protestors, which set off the entire movement. A few weeks later, more than 3 million people took part in the protests, their frustration encompassing the growing authoritarianism of Erdoğan’s government. Thousands of people were injured, and at least five died. Özer had just turned 19. In the following years, Erdoğan threw a number of journalists in prison and tried the Internet, and foreign businessmen failed.


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