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Turkey: Government repression of teacher unionists continues

The Turkish Education and Science Workers’ Union, Egitim Sen, has condemned a police raided of its Van branch office in eastern Turkey and the arbitrary arrest of six more trade unionists.

Egitim Sen General Secretary,Mehmet Bozgeyik, stated: “Despite of the government mentioning ‘advanced democracy in Turkey’ the anti-democratic treatment and repression is gaining speed. Our Van branch office was raided by the police when there was no one there. Later on, our members: Selami Özyasar, Lezgin Botan; Müzait Karakus; Garip Yaviç; Sinan Gündüz, and Hakan Yaman were taken into custody.”

Bozgeyik admitted that Egitim Sen is deeply concerned by police tactics which reflect an “authoritarian regime.” He also raised concerns that this use of force was “becoming more common in post general election days.”

“These police raids do not surprise us anymore. Just like all other people struggling for democracy and freedom in Turkey, our members and leaders have always faced this kind of repression. However, they can’t discourage us and we won’t give up our proud struggle,” Simsek added.

The Egitim Sen union has come under sustained attack from national authorities for supporting the right to ‘education in the mother tongue’, especially in areas with large Kurdish communities. Having previously been forced to remove this clause from their constitution, Egitim Sen members voted to re-insert the ‘education in the mother tongue’ into the Union’s constitution at their recent congress on 14 May 2011.

EI supports its affiliate in itscondemnation of the police raid, and demands that teachers imprisoned for trade union activity are released. It also urges national authorities to respect international labour rights standards that it has ratified.

At its sixth World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, EI will present its Mary Hatwood Futrell Human and Trade Union Rights Award to Egitim Sen’s former Women’s Secretary, Gülçin Isbert, who, alongside 30 other Turkish public sector unionists, is awaiting an Izmir Court’s decision for allegedly being a member of an ‘illegal’ organisation. The national authorities have prevented Isbert from leaving the country so she will not be able to collect her award in person.

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