Turkey: Police confront demonstrators

published 2013-12-03 updated 2013-12-12

EI’s affiliate in Turkey, E?itim Sen, has condemned the police crackdown on teachers and demonstrators gathered in Ankara for a protest march demanding quality education on 23 November, on the eve of the national Teachers’ Day.

E?itim Sen had linked this demonstration to the EI Unite for Quality Education campaign. The EI Unite campaign was also mentioned in the invitation to join the event, and about 7,000 people from different E?itim Sen branches across Turkey came together to promote quality education and decent conditions for education employees.

“In fact, it was not the ‘Teachers’ Day’ celebrations because, in Turkey, 24 November was installed as Teachers' Day by the coup d’état administration which seized power in 1980. That is why E?itim Sen celebrates 5 October, not 24 November, as Teachers’ Day,” said E?itim Sen General Secretary Mehmet Bozgeyik.

Police intervention

At the march, the crowd wanted to walk towards the Ministry of Education. However, police forces intervened suddenly during the peaceful demonstration. They did not allow the crowd to march past K?z?lay Square, and chased protesters in side streets surrounding this square. This prevented demonstrators from arriving at the iconic Tando?an Square.

The attack included teargas and water cannons and a number of people were injured by the police. Two E?itim Sen members were wounded because of tear gas canisters.

Seven protesters were injured during the crackdown, while one female teacher sustained cerebral trauma due to the impact of a gas canister fired by the police, reported the national newspaper Hürriyet: “The teacher, Asl? Akdemir, has been transferred to the hospital. Doctors said although severe, her injury was not life-threatening.”

People were detained following the demonstration but released immediately and, fortunately, no demonstrator was seriously injured, the Turkish teacher union reported.

Tension between government and union

After the events, the Minister of Education said that it was not convenient for teachers to be involved in such protests in which they are confronted by the police, and that engaging in dialogue about educational matters was a better option.

“However, it is now a publicly known fact that E?itim Sen has sent meeting requests to the ministry during two months and could get no response from the ministry,” deplored Bozgeyik.

Tension around education policies rose after the Turkish Government announced plans to change the status of test preparatory institutions, known as dershanes, turning them into private schools. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an said they would not back down on the measure, criticising the test preparatory institutions for favouring high-income families. Some of the teachers participating in the march chanted slogans against the privatisation of education.

EI: Government must engage in social dialogue

“We firmly condemn the assault by police forces on peaceful demonstrators,” said Martin Rømer, Director of EI’s region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE). “We urge national authorities to engage in faithful dialogue with organisations representing educators to ensure free quality public education for all in this country.”

To read E?itim Sen‘s brochure about the Teachers’ Day event, click here

Images of the repressed manifestation are available here