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Repression of KESK and Arrests

The first hearing of the case against 15 women trade-unionists of KESK (Confederation of Public Employees Unions) was held in Ankara on October 4. Out of 15 women trade-unionists 9 have been in prison for 8 months without being taken into the court. Now this was the first time they were before a judge.

There were thousands of people in front of the court coming from around Turkey to show their support for the woman trade-unionists, most of them being members of KESK. They demanded their friends be released. KESK chairman Lami Özgen made a speech emphasizing the hardships of being woman, Kurd and member of a fighting union like KESK in Turkey.

There were also many representatives coming from abroad to show their support for the trade-unionists and KESK, including Stephen Benedict from ITUC, Klaus Loercher from ETUC, Jan Willem Goudriaan from EPSU, and others from Sweden (TCO), Britain (NASUWT), Greece (OLME), Germany (GEW), Denmark (DLF), France (SNES-FSU), Cyprus (KTOEOS). They all made speeches and demanded the trade-unionists be freed.

The hearing lasted until late in the evening and around 21:00 it was declared by a speech by Lami Özgen that 6 out of 9 woman trade-unionists were released. This was applauded by the people who had been waiting there since the morning. He said “We are confident that those friends who are still kept in prison will be with us tomorrow in our march forward. But today’s ruling is against all international agreements. We do not accept the court’s ruling and will continue to fight for their freedom in the upcoming period.”

The repression of trade-unionists and KESK is not extraordinary. Many trade-unionists have faced police repression and harassment especially since 2009 when the police operations started under the name of KCK operation. KCK is the name of the new form of organisation of the Kurdish national liberation movement. During these police operations carried on under the KCK operation hundreds of KESK members and officials have been taken into detention and 76 of them arrested. Even the chairman Lami Özgen was among them though released later. Police raids targeting the union premises and homes of trade-unionists are still going on. That all of the trade-unionists arrested are Kurds clearly shows that the attack especially aims to repress Kurdish people’s democratic demands.

The AKP government cannot put up with social opposition. They aim at Kurds, fighting unions and workers. Police operations against KESK are going on with raids over homes, union centres and their local offices. No union officials are allowed to be present during these raids and they break in the offices, confiscate the computers etc. KESK members and officials are accused of “terrorism” by involving in the KCK. But the questions that were asked to the arrested KESK members show that the AKP government’s desire to crush the trade-union movement and social opposition. For instance they were questioned about their involvement in the demonstrations of 8 March International Women’s Day. Why did they join the demonstrations? Under whose orders? How they were oriented by the KCK? Participating in rallies organised to express the demands of peace and democracy, participating in 8 March celebrations are treated as if crime.

The chairman of KESK, Lami Özgen, who was also among the ones who were arrested and released some time ago, told that he was charged with involvement in actions for protesting the ridiculous pay rise for public employees. Thus simple trade-union activity is under threat.

KESK calls on all public employees, unions and democratic mass organisations to support KESK members. Many trade-unions and democratic mass organisations including the Association of International Workers’ Solidarity (UID-DER) are in solidarity with KESK. With their participation there are many mass protests against repression of KESK and Kurdish movement. The fight to free the other KESK members keeps on. We will not passively wait for the court rulings but continue to fight in the streets and workplaces.


5 October 2012