Solidarity plea from Turkish unions
Kivanç Eliaçik is Director of International Relations Department at the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK). Here is his call for international solidarity with the Turkish unions’ strike in protest against the repression of demonstrators in Taksim Square, Istanbul. As well as the ETUC/ITUC affiliates DISK and KESK, the strike will be joined by professional associations of doctors and engineers. You can show solidarity by taking an ITUC/LabourStart e-action.
The people’s resistance and mobilisation is in its 20th day. Since 8pm last night, in Taksim Square and many districts there have been non-stop clashes with police. Police attacked peaceful protestors with excessive violence, with plastic bullets, pepper and tear gas, water cannons and water with liquid pepper gas.
On Friday early morning, PM Erdogan was forced to meet with Taksim Solidarity representatives including DISK General Secretary Arzu Çerkezo?lu, the Turkish Doctors Association, the Turkish Architecture Association and other mass organisations to find a solution. But the PM was very angry and aggressive, and after the meeting he targeted Arzu – the first woman General Secretary of DISK – claiming that she was “an ultra unionist.” After the meeting, the Government’s spokesperson stated that they would respect the legal court’s decision that stopped the construction of the shopping mall in Gezi Park, the only green public place in central Istanbul.
However this is no longer enough. If the Government had stated this 20 days ago, that might have been a solution. But in those 20 days, five people died, almost 7,000 people were injured. 15 people lost their eyes. There are 50 heavily injured people. Thousands of people were taken into custody. Across Turkey’s cities, millions poured onto the streets demanding the resignation of the Government. The Government is now trying to limit all mobilisation over the Gezi Park issue and make propaganda to separate “innocent-pacifist environmentalists vs marginal, illegal groups.” People oppose and object to this characterisation.
On Saturday, Taksim Solidarity decided to normalise the area. They cleaned some barricades and decided to establish one symbolic tent, removing hundreds of ohers. The platform decided to continue the mobilisation with peaceful mass demonstrations. However despite this, at 8pm, police attacked Gezi Park with gas bombs, injured hundreds of people and destroyed all tents. Since then, spontaneously, hundreds of thousands poured onto the streets in all parts of Istanbul, closed the traffic on the main international motorway and marched to Taksim Square. Tens of thousands marched into the Asian side over the Bosphorus Bridge. They clashed with police and passed all the police barricades.
Police forces normally have numbers on their helmets but over the past two days, the helmet numbers have been missing, allowing the police to do whatever they liked. They even followed protesters trying to hide in shopping malls and 5 star hotels. They fired pepper gas into hotels, cafes and houses. There was no limit to the police violence.
Clashes still continue in many districts and people insist on pouring into the streets and marching over the police by using ferries, buses, cars and on foot. People are only using peaceful means, protesting against the police, blowing car horns and throwing the pepper gases back at the police. Last night one 55-year old lady died in Istanbul from a heart attack after the police attacked with pepper gas. Today there are many heavily injured people and there may be more dead.
Clashes have spread to Ankara and Adana. In Ankara since last night, clashes have been continuing. Today there was a funeral of a young man, Ethem Sarisülük, who was killed last week by a police bullet that was recorded by TV channels. Police even attacked the funeral with water cannons. There are mass demonstrations in Izmir, Eskiehir, Bursa, Trabzon and even strongholds of the Government such as Kayseri, Konya.
DISK and KESK have now declared a strike and called their members to join demonstrations to protest against the Government.
Prime Minister Erdogan’s reaction has been to polarise people and suppress the mobilisation with violence. He has also mobilised his own supporters. Yesterday, he had a mass meeting in Ankara and he declared that he will clean the Taksim Square. Just 2 hours later police started intervention. His Government uses all public sources to mobilise their supporters with free transport and free meals. Erdogan has targeted CNN, BBC and other international media channles with fabricated news, blaming foreign and domestic interest groups determined to stop the rise of the Turkish State as a global power. He is threatening protestors and making propaganda of fabricated lies, claiming people are looters, anti-religion, anti-nationalist people.
His aim is to consolidate his support. He had almost 50% vote in the last election. But his AKP-led Government is a coalition of different groups. It is estimated that political Islamists have almost 10% of the vote. People who vote for centre right, secular parties voted for him for economic stability. He knows that he may lose this support as a result of this mobilisation and his authoritarian rule, as well as the stagnation of the economy over the past year. Also his adventurous Syrian policy has conflicted with US policy, threatening the loss of US support too.
Hundreds of thousands of people are resisting excessive police violence in Istanbul and in almost all cities. This is the final phase of PM Erdogan. We call for international support for the cause of the people.