Turkey’s workers are celebrating May Day in several cities across the country today. They are protesting against worsening living conditions due to the country’s deepening economic crisis, the lack of oversight of safety in the workplace, the increasing number of workplace deaths, and the government’s crackdown on the workers’ right to organise. Meanwhile, the hope that the 14 May elections will bring change is also evident in the May Day rallies.
Demonstrations have been taking place without incident in most cities, but people attempting to celebrate Labour Day in the Kurdish-majority southeastern city of Diyarbakır (Amed) faced riot police in the morning. The police blockaded the crowd trying to march to the square where the rally was to be held, and kept them waiting for some time.
A large number of anti-riot water cannon vehicles, riot police and police buses were deployed to the area.
After they had been kept waiting for a while, the police eventually allowed the crowds to move into the square, but only in small groups.
In Istanbul, May Day also began with clashes between the security forces and the groups attempting to march towards the Taksim Square, the traditional public gathering place of the city, which has been banned for mass demonstrations for the past decade by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The police, having surrounded the Square with barriers and blocked the adjacent roads the night before, intervened and detained the protesters including members of the construction workers’ union, according to journalist Zeynep Kuray, who was also detained after being beaten.
In Istanbul’s Maltepe district, police prevented some socialist groups from taking their banners into the rally area at the May Day rally. At least eight people were detained after a brawl broke out.
“We will get rid of this evil order together,” said Arzu Çerkezoğlu, chairwoman of the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DISK), referring to the coming elections, and added that this year would be the last May Day when entry to Taksim Square would be prohibited.
About 200 miners from Zonguldak city in the north travelled to the city of Adana in the south for the May Day celebrations. After the rally, they will travel to the earthquake-stricken Hatay province to meet with earthquake victims.
Miners from Zonguldak participated in search and rescue operations after the earthquakes in the south of the country, and rescued large numbers of people from under the rubble.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) jailed former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş greeted the masses with a tweet: “Workers and labourers will first bring the thief and usurper to account at the ballot box and bring an end to this plundering reign,” he said. “Then they will continue their labour struggle, and they will obtain their rights from the new government.”
May Day in northeast Syria
May Day was celebrated by people in their thousands in five centres in North and East Syria.
Speaking at one rally, Şêro Mehemed Şero, Director of the Workers’ Union of the Jizreh (Cizre) Region, said that labourers were the main backbone of the North and East Syrian Revolution, that they could further develop society, and he called for people to intensify the common struggle.
May Day in Iraqi Kurdistan
“The working class is one of the key pillars of society and the dynamic for our people’s revolutions,” Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) President Bafel Talabani said on Monday. “The PUK grew within this hardworking revolutionary class.”
Talabani stressed that the PUK considers itself an integral part of this influential force and the working class. “The PUK does not forget its history and sacrifices,” he said.
Addressing the workers in Iraqi Kurdistan, the PUK leader concluded: “Happy International Workers’ Day, Kurdistan is in debt to you for your hard work.”