World Bulletin / News Desk
Turkey’s major unions continued to insist on holding May Day rallies at Istanbul’s Taksim Square, despite the government’s refusal to permit any such gatherings.
"We will be at Taksim to oppose an irrational and unlawful ban," Kani Beko, chairman of Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK), said in a press conference held in Istanbul on Wednesday, which started with "Long Live May Day" slogans.
Lami Ozgen, Chairman of Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) along with Mehmet Soganci, President of the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) and Osman Ozturk, a member of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), stood with DISK chairman Beko at the press conference.
Beko criticized the ruling AK Party's approach to May Day by saying, "The prohibitive stance of AK Party, which hung banners in 2010 which read 'May Day is both a festival and in Taksim square,' is inconsistent and incoherent."
Referring to a November 2012 decision by the European Court of Human Rights, which said that the ban on protests in Taksim by the Turkish government was a violation of Article 11 on freedom of assembly, Beko said, "It is unlawful not to comply with the court's decision about the subject and to ignore even the decision of the international court."
Beko recalled that previous May Day celebrations held in Taksim went peacefully.
"Nobody was harmed during the May Day celebrations held in Taksim in 2010, 2011 and 2012," Beko said. "If police and the government do not interfere in [celebrations] and aggravate [the groups], we can guarantee these celebrations will be like those celebrations in 1976, 2010, 2011 and 2012."
On May 1, 1977, while some 500,000 people gathered in Taksim Square to celebrate Labor Day, unidentified gunmen fired on the peaceful crowd. Thirty-six people died in the riots and fighting that followed. Taksim Square remained closed to Labor Day demonstrations between 1977 and 2010.
Istanbul governor's office said Taksim Square will not be open to May Day demonstrations due to intelligence reports which indicate that “illegal terrorist organizations” will provoke violence against security forces.
"Security forces seized two Kalashnikov guns in recent operations. There is a risk of long-barreled weapons. We are charged with securing lives and property," added the statement.
Yenikapi was officially designated as a demonstration area for May Day. Istanbul Governorship has offered 300 buses free of charge for participants to reach Yenikapi.
DISK chairman Beko asserted that "declaring a state of siege across the city [Istanbul], blocking the transportation and punishing 15 million people living in Istanbul by saying 'if workers go out , the city life will be affected negatively,' is irrational."
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled out an appeal from a Turkish citizen which would have allowed May Day celebrations at Taksim Square. The court’s justification for the decision is that "domestic remedies were not exhausted.”
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