GLOBAL union federation IndustriALL has repeated its call for full democracy in Turkey as a crackdown on fundamental rights escalates.
It said: ‘In the wake of the failed coup in Turkey on 15 July 2016, a state of emergency was declared, leading to an unacceptable crackdown on democratic rights. IndustriALL unequivocally condemns the coup of 15 July. While the Erdogan administration has grown increasingly anti-democratic, a military coup lead by another faction of the elite is no solution to the problems the country faces.
‘Turkey needs more democracy, not less. The coup attempt was allegedly led by members of the congregation founded by the self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, and defeated thanks to people at the grassroots rallying to the defence of democracy. Without a popular base of support, it could not succeed.
‘However, the Erdogan administration has used the opportunity of the coup to suspend democracy and declare a three month state of emergency covering the whole country, approved by parliament on 21 July by 346 (AKP and MHP) votes to 115 (CHP and HDP), for the first time since the military dictatorship of 1980.
‘The country is now run through government decrees and executive orders, subject to approval by the Parliament after they are issued. In the month since the coup, the government has embarked on a large scale crackdown, not just against alleged conspirators, but also against democratic opposition and civil society, with the claim that they are also connected with the failed coup attempt. This appears to have turned into a witch-hunt.
‘So far, around 80,000 people have been suspended from work, and some 5,000 have been sacked. According to recent reports, more than 20,000 people have been detained and many remain in custody. This includes thousands of teachers and educators, journalists, civil servants, judges and even football coaches.
‘There are public reports and images that many of these workers are union members who have been suspended from work with no due process, with some being subject to beating and torture. The European Convention on Human Rights has been suspended by the government, and more than 130 newspapers, TV and radio stations have been closed, schools, hospitals and companies have been shut, political parties and union offices have been raided, and private property has been confiscated.
‘This is in addition to an existing crackdown of workers’ rights, which has seen our Turkish unions struggling to defend members in extremely difficult circumstances. IndustriALL Global Union shares the deep concerns of its sister global unions Education International and Public Services International about Turkey’s ongoing and large scale violations of core International Labour Organisation standards.
‘IndustriALL believes that without credible evidence demonstrating illegal activity with the purpose of bringing down the Turkish government, no worker should be suspended or dismissed. The state of emergency gives extensive rights to governors to arbitrarily intervene to stop union activities, such as banning the printing and distribution of leaflets or any other union bulletins.
‘IndustriALL supports the call to stop using the failed coup attempt as a union busting excuse. Unions around the world have condemned the repression, and called for solidarity in defence of democracy and workers’ rights in Turkey. Along with the stance of IndustriALL affiliates worldwide, sister global organisations the ITUC and ETUC expressed great concern at the purge and the International Federation of Journalists has denounced the detention of scores of journalists.
‘IndustriALL is deeply concerned about the developments in Turkey, and stands in solidarity with our Turkish affiliates and the people of Turkey in their struggle for democracy.’
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said: ‘The coup must not be used as justification to crackdown on opposition groups, civil society and trade unions.’ He added: ‘Turkey needs democracy and peace, so all of its people can freely practice their beliefs, express their thoughts and live in dignity. We will continue to support our affiliates and the people of Turkey in their struggle for democracy.’
Meanwhile International Transport Federation (ITF) general secretary Steve Cotton has protested to Turkey’s prime minister, aviation and transport ministers, and aviation authority, over the suspension of two airport workers. He acted after ITF union BTS (United Trade Union of Transport Employees) alerted the Federation that the two appeared to be victims of an opportunistic attack by airport officials using the country’s failed coup in as an excuse.
Cotton informed the prime minister that the two BTS members, Sultan Tugay Karakus from Elazig Airport, and Nazim Sarsilmaz from Siirt Airport, were reportedly suspended on the grounds that they were ‘supporters of the coup attempt’ in Turkey.
Stressing ‘we are deeply concerned with the drastic purge launched by the Turkish government,’ Cotton wrote: ‘The coup attempt shouldn’t be used as an excuse to eradicate democratic opposition through a state of emergency. We urge you to act without delay to ensure that all charges against Sister Karakus and Brother Sarsilmaz be immediately and unconditionally withdrawn and we look forward to hearing from you in this respect.’
Ishak Kocabiyik, BTS general secretary, explained that the union believes the suspensions are directly linked to the two workers’ union membership. It was particularly ironic, he said, that the excuse used was ‘support for the coup’ when the union and its members had volubly and publicly resisted the putsch attempt.
• Twenty-two journalists detained in a raid on Özgur Gündem last Tuesday have been released. The European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) reported on Wednesday that Özgur Gündem is the latest opposition newspaper in Turkey to be forcibly shut down following the crackdown on media in the wake of a failed coup.
A court in Istanbul ordered the closure of the pro-Kurdish newspaper last Tuesday for spreading alleged propaganda on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The move came as Can Dündar, editor in chief of another opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, resigned from his position, claiming he would live abroad after having been condemned to five years in prison for allegedly divulging state secrets.
The EFJ-IFJ has called for the closure of the paper to be reversed and backed Turkish journalists’ unions calls for an end to the crackdown on independent and opposition media.
EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård said last Tuesday: ‘The use of violence against journalists and media workers are unacceptable anytime, anywhere and what just happened at Özgür Gündem, the historical Kurdish daily in Turkey, is unacceptable. Apparently, the authorities are using the post-coup state of emergency situation to attack all critical voices.’
IFJ President Philippe Leruth said: ‘We are witnessing the strangulation of free and independent media in Turkey. Journalists are being sacked and arrested, media closed and dissenting voices silenced. The world must wake up and demand the rights of Turkey’s journalists and media are upheld.’
Shortly after the announcement of the newspaper’s closure by authorities, police raided its office in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district, reports P24 website. During the police raid, the newspaper’s editor-in-Chief Zana Kaya, journalists Günay Aksoy, Kemal Bozkurt, Reyhan Hacioglu, Önder Elaldi, Ender Önder, Sinan Balik, Firat Yesilçinar, Inan Kizilkaya, Özgür Paksoy, Zeki Erden, Elif Aydogmus, Bilir Kaya, Ersin Çaksu, Mesut Kaynar, Sevdiye Gürbüz, Amine Demirkiran, Bayram Balci, Burcu Özkaya, Yilmaz Bozkurt, Gülfem Karataﬂ, Gökhan Çetin, Hüseyin Gündüz and Asli Erdogan were detained.
Özgur Gundem, whose print version has a daily circulation of around 7,500, has faced dozens of investigations, fines and the arrest of correspondents since 2014. It has been repeatedly closed down in the past. More recently, the paper started a campaign on May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day, called ‘editors-in-chief on duty’ in which guest editors temporarily took charge of the paper in an attempt to defend press freedom and highlight attacks on the paper and its journalists.
However, an Istanbul court ordered the arrest of three of the campaigners, ﬁebnem Korur Fincanci, Erol Önderoglu and Ali Nesin on charges of ‘making terror propaganda’ after they served as guest editors. After more than ten days in jail, they have been released pending trial.
Following the closure of Özgür Gündem, the authorities last Wednesday violently raided the house of Ragip Zarakolu, a journalist, writer and editor known for his publishing houses on minority rights in Turkey. The writer was not home but his books about Armenian, Pontus and Assyrian genocides have been seized by the authorities. Houses of journalists Eren Keskin and Filiz Koçali have also been raided by the police for a similar purpose.
Turkey has closed more than 130 media outlets and jailed more than 50 journalists since a state of emergency was declared in the wake of last month’s (15 July) failed military coup.