Turk unions and government in a dangerous stand-off

Hurriyet English
28 Nisan 2008 - 12:13Son Güncelleme : 28 Nisan 2008 - 17:22

The governor of Istanbul on Monday declined to open Taksim Square for May Day celebrations, rejecting demands of Turkish unions. The unions reiterated their determination. Latest developments are like to raise tensions further. (UPDATED)

"Taksim Square is not among the places that were determined and declared as appropriate for such celebrations. Therefore it is impossible to hold May Day celebrations in Taksim Square," Guler said in a televised press conference, adding a criminal complaint was filed against the unions, a move likely to raise tensions further.  

Turkey's leading unions, representing some 3 million people, decided to celebrate May Day in Taksim Square, a move against a decades long ban. Last year, celebrations turned violent and 1,000 people were taken into custody after one union attempted to hold a May Day celebration in Taksim Square.

Two unions, KESK and DISK, reitrated their determination to celebrate May Day in Taksim Square. "Guler's statement saying any celebrations in Taksim will be averted by police with force cannot reconcile with democracy and freedom," KESK Chairman Ismail Hakki Tombul said in a written statement on Monday.

He also criticized the government saying AKP embraces democracy and freedom values only in situation when they are directly effected and urged them to act responsibly.

Turkey banned May Day celebrations in Taksim Square after 36 people were killed on May 1, 1977; a date since referred to as the "Bloody May 1." The Turkish government has decided to celebrate May Day as "Labor and Solidarity Day," but declined to declare it a national public holiday.

Observers say the Turkish government is reluctant to lift the ban due to concerns that it could turn into a mass anti-AKP rally over the controversial social security law. 

"Any poster or document that invites people to (celebrations) will not be allowed. It is a crime to attend such a demonstration. Freedom of thought may be limited to prevent a criminal act," he added.

He also said that some information had emerged revealing that illegal organizations will see this as an opportunity to take revenge for last year's events, even planning to clash with security forces.

"We have intelligence reports. I want to warn the unions. Some outlawed groups want to take revenge. The security forces are obliged to diffuse any illegal demonstrations. Those who don't obey the warnings will be diffused by force," he said.

The Istanbul governorship will hold a meeting Tuesday to discuss extraordinary security measures for May Day.

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