The Assault on Turkish democracy continues
It has been a year since I blogged on the arrest of a staggering 502 people in Turkey, many of whom are trade unionists, for basically voicing their dissent. More like a year and a half since my blog on the protest which was sparked by the destruction of Gezi Park and spread across Turkey ,only to be brutally suppressed. So what has happened since then? Sadly more of the same!
Everywhere you look in Turkey the rights of workers and more broadly civil liberties are under attack. Let me just cite a few recent examples.
Metal workers in Turkey went on strike on 29 January demanding better wages and working conditions, once negotiations between employer and the union failed. The strike involved 15,000 workers in 22 workplaces and was organised by the Turkish Metal Workers Union.
The Turkish government argued that the metal workers’ strike “is capable of disrupting national security “and decided on 30 January to postpone the strike for 60 days under Article 63 of Law No. 6356 on trade unions and collective bargaining agreements. No credible argument was advanced for how such action could threaten state security!
Unfortunately, the current ruling party, the AKP, has a track record in this arbitrary use of highly restrictive labour law. They similarly banned the strikes of Hava Is (airline workers union), Tek Gida Is (Turkish Food & Allied Workers Union) and Kristal Is (Glass Workers Union) on the grounds of national security. In all of these cases the action of the workers did not threaten state security but did constitute dissent which the Turkish government finds intolerable
Last month also saw the adoption of a resolution by the European Parliament on the freedom of expression in Turkey. The resolution notes that on 14 December 2014 the Turkish police arrested journalists and media executives, including Ekrem Dumanl, editor-in-chief of the Zaman newspaper, and Hidayet Karaca, general manager of the Samanyolu broadcasting group; whereas a warrant, issued by a judge in Istanbul, states that they were under criminal investigation for forming an organisation that had ‘by pressure, intimidation and threats attempted to seize state power’. The European Parliament’s findings on the Turkish states actions were utterly damning. Amongst which it states that the Parliament:
Expresses its concern over backsliding in democratic reforms, and in particular the government’s diminishing tolerance of public protest and critical media; notes, in this regard, that the arrests on 14 December 2014 fall into a deplorable pattern of increased pressure and restrictions on press and media outlets, including internet-based social media and fora ; notes that website bans are of disproportionate scope in Turkey; deplores the number of journalists in pre-trial detention, effectively punishing them, and calls on Turkey’s judicial authorities to review and address these cases as soon as possible;
The European Parliament also noted that in its view these arrests where ‘incompatible with European values’ and ‘incompatible with the freedom of the media’, but that these challenges had been firmly rejected by President Erdogan.
Until recently more reporters/journalists were locked-up in Turkey than any other country. The fact that they have slipped to third place in this table of infamy has got more to do with the excesses of others rather than any softening in their intolerance of criticism by the Turkish government.
Be you a trade unionists demanding rights for workers, a minority activist, calling for equal rights for women or a journalist just trying to do your job , you are at risk in Erdogan’s Turkey!