A March in Honour of Worker Victims of Kozlu Mine

On 13 January the families of workers who have lost their lives in workplace accidents marched in Taksim, Istanbul, in honour of the victims of the accident in a mine in Kozlu (Zonguldak). The accident took place on 7 January and 8 miners lost their lives. The march was also joined by various working class organisations including UID-DER (Association of International Workers’ Solidarity).

The families of those workers who died in workplace accidents in recent years due to lack of necessary precautionary measures came together and expressed their anger at the Prime- minister and other ministers who described workplace accidents as “fate” in an attempt to trivialise them. The families carried a banner which read “Not Accident, Not Fate ... But MURDER!” They also carried placards that read “How many more?” “Work Safety First!” “Never Forget, Never Let Forget!” Raged families chanted slogans such as “Not accident but murder!” “Perpetrators are known, put them on trial!” “We don’t want to die at work!” During the march the number of workers who died in workplace accidents was stated. The families read out the names of their loved ones they lost and Kozlu victims, and after each name the marchers responded with the slogan “Don’t forget!”

When the marchers reached Galatasaray High School a speech was made by Damla Kiyak who had lost her elder brother, Baris Kiyak, in a fire that occurred in a construction site in Esenyurt, Istanbul. Baris Kiyak was one of the eleven workers who died in that fire as their tents were makeshift ones without a safety exit, made of cheap flammable material. In her speech Kiyak’s sister who have been fighting against workplace accidents said that Kozlu mine had been inspected by the Labour Ministry before the accident and that a report had been written by the inspectors, which revealed the lack of work safety measures. But despite the report no serious sanction was imposed. She said “We are furious at those who do not carry out proper inspection, who do not care workers’ lives for their profits and who do not put employers on trial and punish them. Masters, our curse and cry will not let you sleep in comfort! Our efforts are for preventing such sufferings from happening again, for everyone to be aware of this reality and not to forget it.”

After Kiyak’s speech Hacer Erdem took the floor. She is the mother of Selin Erdem who was killed in a work accident while working in the movie set of a TV serial. She said she has been living in black, as if she is in dungeon. She called for justice. A relative of one of the victims of the Davutpaşa blast (in a small fireworks workshop) appealed to the pious Prime-minister: “There is a saying in Koran: ‘Take the precautions you have to take then leave the rest to Allah.’ Has the prime minister himself ever happened to think on that saying as a practicing Muslim?” Another relative of one the victims of Davutpaşa blast asked: “As we started our struggle and filed our complaint the authorities asked us: ‘why was your relative working at such a workplace? And now we ask in response: ‘Did you provide any better jobs for them?”

The families who took to the streets after Kozlu incident cried out that they expected the situation with the fatal workplace accidents would be improved after each protest, but it got worse and workers kept on dying in greater numbers. They said they did not want other families suffer the same grief and would keep on their struggle. The families called for support for Conscience and Justice Watch which they have been keeping for more than a year every first Sunday of the month.

19 January 2013