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ITUC: May Day Demonstrations in Istanbul

On behalf of the 175 million workers who are represented by the International Trade UNION Confederation (ITUC) through its 315 affiliates in 156 countries and territories, I am writing to you concerning the upcoming celebrations of Labour Day, on 1 May.

As the expression of the achievements of workers, 1 May is celebrated in nearly every country of the world, including Turkey. It is a day to commemorate the attainments of the international workers’ movement, but also to pay tribute to all those workers who have contributed to the struggle, all too often even losing their lives. It is also a reminder that this struggle is by no means over: workers’ rights continue to be violated on a permanent basis, in every corner of the world.

It is therefore with great concern that I learnt about the decision by the Governor of Istanbul to prohibit Labour Day demonstrators to take to Taksim Square. The ITUC is fully aware of the history of this event, as it was represented at the demonstration on 1 May 2010, when marchers were allowed to take to Taksim Square again for the first time since the dramatic events of 1977, when 34 workers were killed after violent clashes with the police.

In 2010, 140,000 UNION leaders, members and sympathisers walked the streets of Istanbul up to Taksim Square. The whole event was peaceful and there was not one instance at which the police had to take action to maintain order. The demonstrations in 2011 and in 2012 were equally peaceful.

I also want to remind you that the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling on 27 November 2012, Application no. 38676/08, in favour of national UNION centres DISK and KESK in their case against the Turkish state, on the issue of organising peaceful demonstrations.

I will personally be going to this year’s May Day rally in Istanbul. In doing so, I want to show the workers of your country that the ITUC is very concerned about their issues, and that the eyes of the international UNION movement are on Turkey.

I would therefore be highly disappointed to have to witness violent police repression of what is, and should be for everyone, a celebration of the realisations of organised labour. I call on you to ensure that this does not occurr, and that May Day is the same joyous day as it is for workers across the globe.