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04. May 2007

Another bloody May Day in Turkey

Thirty years after the May Day killings of 1977, Turkish police unleash violence. Undeterred, Birlesik-is Metal continues to fight against undemocratic laws that violate fundamental rights with the support of an international solidarity campaign.
TURKEY: Violations of fundamental democratic rights in Turkey reached unacceptable levels on May Day. Union leaders and activists marking the anniversary of the May Day killings of 1977 in Taksim Square met brute violence from police and security forces.

The IMF is following with increasing concern the situation of workers’ and trade union rights violations in Turkey.

Thirty years ago, 34 people were shot or trampled to death, and hundreds wounded, after an unidentified gunman opened fire on May Day marchers at Taksim Square in the centre of Istanbul. Police drove tanks toward the masses at all points of exit, literally trapping demonstrators.

Reminiscent of that brutal day, May Day demonstrators laying wreaths and flowers in Taksim Square on Tuesday were met with tear gas, water cannons and beatings from police and security forces that occupied the city’s square. According to reports, around 5,000 riot police, reinforced with armoured personnel carriers, were on guard in the square including snipers in position on rooftops.

A union activist from Birlesik Metal-IS, an affiliate of the International Metalworkers’ Federation, gave a witness account of the May Day violence:

“Around nine o'clock we were in Besiktas, which was fully under an intense smoke from several pepper gas bombings and surrounded by thousands of robocops. People were not allowed to go to Taksim or any street that might take them near Taksim Square. When we arrived in Kabatas we faced a huge gas bombing and a very brutal police attack directed at peaceful marchers including us who mostly belong to DISK unions.

“Like many others, myself and my friends were also wounded by pepper gas and decided to escape from this area through narrow streets that go to Taksim. There were also thousands of police in Taksim where only a small group of trade unionists (around 1000 people) were allowed access to the square. More than 600 people were arrested and taken to the different police centres in the city. In the first few hours they were not allowed to phone anyone and therefore nobody knew who were taken and to which police station,” said the activist.

The violence that took place on the streets of Turkey comes at a time during tense political violability over the country’s next president.

An international solidarity campaign is being held with the support of IMF affiliates in all continents. Turkish metalworkers are fighting under the leadership of our affiliate Birlesik-is Metal against Turkish undemocratic laws that violate internationally recognised fundamental rights.

Existing laws severely limit the workers organising and collective bargaining rights while granting a quasi-monopoly condition to undemocratic organisations that pretend to represent workers interests.

"While TNCs from Europe and Asia benefit from this violation of fundamental rights, our sisters and brothers in Turkey continue struggling for changes to the legislation that would really bring it in line with minimum international standards," said IMF general secretary Marcello Malentacchi.

The IMF, together with the EMF and IG Metall, joined leaders of Birlesik-is and DISK a few days ago to meet in Ankara the Turkish Minister of Labour, Vice Prime Minister and opposition leaders. The unions denounced the repression of workers and asked for changes to Turkish laws to bring them in line with ILO fundamental Conventions that Turkey has ratified.

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