— The Erimtan Angle —

In Turkey, ‘[t]he heart of May Day celebrations has always been İstanbul’s busy Taksim Square. On May Day in 1977, also known as Bloody May Day, 37 people were killed when unknown assailants opened fire on the crowd. Since then, May Day in Turkey has always been a source of tension, and the square was officially declared off-limits to May Day demonstrators. In 2009, however, the government decided to make May Day an official holiday and opened up Taksim Square for celebrations, beginning in 2010. But last year, the government announced that it would not allow celebrations in Taksim Square due to construction going on there at the time. It has been prohibited again this year, with government officials simply saying that “Taksim is not a place for celebrations”‘.[1]

The report continues that ‘[m]ore than 60 civil society groups and labor unions intent on defying a government-imposed ban on celebrating May 1, officially known as Labor and Solidarity Day in Turkey, in İstanbul’s iconic Taksim Square have expressed their determination to rally in Taksim on Thursday [, 1 May]. The May Day Committee, made up of the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architects’ Chambers (TMMOB) and the Turkish Doctors Union (TTB), made a statement on Wednesday in which they reiterated their earlier resolve to be in Taksim on May Day. “We will be in Taksim despite the irrational and illegal ban,” said Kani Beko, head of DİSK, who spoke on behalf of the committee on Wednesday [, 30 April]. Beko accused the government of being inconsistent, as it was the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government which made May Day an official holiday and lifted the Taksim ban in 2010. He said that the committee had tried to keep the lines of communication with the government open, but “the only response we’ve gotten was an army of police being dispatched to Taksim on April 21.” On April 21, May Day Committee members attempted to read out a press statement in Taksim. However, their effort was interrupted by police intervention. Several union leaders were detained. Recalling that last year, the municipality suspended public transport to stop people from getting to Taksim, Beko said that such practices are illogical and unreasonable. He said the May Day Committee had tried to schedule an appointment with President Abdullah Gül, who turned them down saying he was busy. The DİSK chairman said the committee was preparing to celebrate a holiday and accused the police force of preparing for war. Beko reiterated that it is important for the unions to commemorate the victims of Bloody May Day’.[2]

On Wednesday, 30 April, the Istanbul’s governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu issued this statement: “Intelligence units have information showing that illegal terrorist organizations and their offshoot groups will resort to violence against security forces. It is such that not only public order and security in Taksim Square and its surroundings are at risk, but also the rights and freedoms of our citizens might be threatened”.[3]

 

[1] “İstanbul braces for Taksim showdown on May 1” Today’s Zaman (30 April 2014). http://www.todayszaman.com/news-346580-istanbul-braces-for-taksim-showdown-on-may-1.html.

[2] “İstanbul braces for Taksim showdown on May 1”.

[3] “Istanbul Governor’s Office says intel reports show ‘violence’ risk if Taksim allocated for May Day” Hürriyet Daily News (30 April 2014). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/istanbul-governors-office-says-intel-reports-show-violence-risk-if-taksim-allocated-for-may-day.aspx?pageID=238&nID=65760&NewsCatID=341.

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