“The international delegation is here to support our Turkish colleagues and to denounce with them the continuous attacks against the Turkish trade union movement that target trade union activists and leaders. While we welcome the release of our six sisters, we do not however forget that many remain in prison and that this is just the beginning of this trial. The ITUC will continue to stand behind our sisters and brothers fighting for their rights,” said Stephen Benedict, the ITUC Human and Trade Union Rights Director and member of the international delegation.
This hearing was the first of the major trials of trade unionists from the ITUC-affiliated Confederation of Public Employees’ Trade Unions (KESK) and KESK affiliated unions arrested in 2012.
On 25 June 2012, the offices of KESK and KESK-affiliated unions including Egitim Sen (Education and Science Workers Union), Tum-Bel-Sen (All Municipality Workers Trade Union), SES (Health and Social Services Workers Union) and Birlesik Tasimacilik Çalisanlari Sendikasi (BTS) were raided. Activists’ homes were also raided. Seventy-one trade union members and leaders across 20 cities in Turkey were arrested and detained. This Turkish police raid was carried out under the pretext of an operation against illegal terrorist organisations. This is the common “label” for all opponents of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government including trade unions. On Friday 29 June, 43 were released pending trial; 28 remained in custody. In February, 15 women KESK leaders and activists were arrested. Nine women were detained – their case was heard on the 4th of October – while six were released pending trial. The next hearing is scheduled for mid-December.
On the 4th of October, Canan Calagan, KESK Women’s Secretary, Hatice Beydilli and Evrim Ozdemir Ograş members of the Egitim Sen Ankara Branch (no.1), Belkis Yurtseven, Nursat Yesil and Hulya Mendillioglu members of the SES (Health and Social Services Workers Union) Ankara Branch were released. However, Guler Elveren, Tüm Bel Sen (All Municipality Workers Trade Union) Women’s Secretary, Bedriye Yorgun, SES Women’s Secretary and SES Former President and Guldane Erdogan, Egitim Sen Ankara Branch (no.2) Women’s Secretary remained in prison.
The repression of the trade union movement through constant intimidation, harassment and repression of trade unions leaders and activities has been increasing in Turkey since 2008. Trade union rights violations in Turkey have regularly been put on the agenda of the annual International Labour Conference in Geneva. The ITUC along with the international trade union movement including the ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation) and the Global Union Federations are united in denouncing and campaigning against those violations as well as in expressing solidarity and supporting Turkish trade unions.
“The ITUC strongly denounces the anti-democratic measures and judicial harassment faced by trade unionists in Turkey. This puts Turkey in the same league as countries like Zimbabwe and Fiji where the same judicial harassment tactics are deployed against trade unions,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.