From the TUC

Turkey’s Taksim spirit goes global

20 Jun 2013, By

Tomorrow afternoon, before the Turkish Embassy in London closes at 4pm, we’ll be demonstrating in solidarity with Turkish trade unionists and the other occupants of Taksim Square. A coalition of British trade unions, global unions and Turkish community groups will protest at the savage repression taking place in Istanbul.

We will be joining other events  in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Thailand and Tunisia. Turkish and international trade unionists will be taking action in Taksim Square itself. If you can’t join us in person, join over 20,000 trade unionists who have taken LabourStart’s biggest ever online solidarity action.

The London demonstration will take place outside the Turkish Embassy at 43 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PA on Friday 21 June from 3pm to 5:30pm. A delegation will attempt to hand deliver a letter to Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.

The global nature of the protests will show that the shine has been taken off the Turkish economic and political miracle. With growth slowing to a stop over the past year, tensions bubbling up in Turkey have attained a political, democratic nature. The country that much of the Arab Spring looked to for a model of a Muslim democracy has seen the sort of violence and repression regularly meted out to trade unions now applied to any form of popular protest which challenges the elected government. As even President Gul, from Erdo?an’s own party (although a rival in reality), has said: ” democracy means more than just elections.”

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has been campaigning off and on for years about abuses of trade union and workers’ rights in Turkey. Their president Paddy Crumlin commented:

“Erdo?an’s actions are shaming himself, his government and Turkey. Trade unions will be holding up a mirror to his disgrace tomorrow and demanding an end to this repression. In the name of civilisation and decency he must cease these savage attacks. The future of Turkish democracy depends on it.”

The letter being delivered at the Turkish Embassy in London states:

We stand in solidarity with the peoples of Turkey and express serious concern at the use of brutal and excessive violence by government security forces against people peacefully exercising their rights of freedom of assembly, an essential part of freedom of expression. Turkish police actions have turned Istanbul, Ankara and other cities where demonstrations take place into battlegrounds and according to reports received, four people have died, many have been seriously injured and thousands are in custody.

We are concerned that your Government appears to be engaging in such repression as a regular practice based on this and earlier episodes; still fresh in our minds are the year’s May Day celebrations, which turned to bloodshed after attacks on demonstrators by the security forces.

We believe that the right to peaceful demonstration is a basic element of genuine democracy. We are also concerned that since the 2011 elections, the legal and illegal denial of fundamental trade union rights has increased. This has included the adoption of laws that discourage rather than encourage the exercise of those rights, inaction, at best, against employers who deny workers’ fundamental rights, abuses in the judiciary system, prevention of de facto application of legal strikes, and violence against trade unionists coupled with limits on freedom of assembly and expression. These constitute attacks on fundamental human rights and democracy.

We urgently call on you to take the following actions to calm the current situation:

  • The Government in Ankara should put an end to state violence against peaceful demonstrators and ensure that the right of freedom of expression and assembly is guaranteed in all public areas of Turkey. In particular we call on your government to ban the use of tear gas.
  • Those responsible for the thousands of injured people and the deaths of Mehmet Ayval?ta?, Abdullah Cömert, Ethem Sar?sülük and Mustafa Sar? should be held accountable, dismissed from their posts and prosecuted before the law.
  • Detained citizens who attended the protests across the country should be immediately released with an official statement declaring that there will not be any investigations pursued into them.
  • All the legal and practical barriers against the exercise of trade union rights are removed and the right to strike is respected.
  • KESK trade unionists, detained journalists and all others unjustly held for legitimate acts of protests and opposition should be released immediately.
  • Turkey and its people deserve much better. They deserve democracy and the protection of all their human rights, including trade union rights. We encourage your Government to move in that direction in the crucial days and weeks ahead.

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