Major KCK raid on unions, 71 detained, brings reactions
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Eğitim-Sen President Ünsal Yıldız speaks to press members after the raids and says his union’s activities on education were a source of concern for the government. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ
Opposition and labor leaders have reacted angrily after police detained yesterday 71 people, many of them high-level union figures, on charges of membership in the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).
“What we see in the middle of Ankara is a scene from a coup. These operations, which were conducted using the judiciary, aim to suppress the opposition, but we will keep on standing against them,” said Sezgin Tanrıkulu, the deputy leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), adding that the raids’ only aim was to oppress opponents of the government.
Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) President Lami Özgen and Kasım Birtek the Diyarbakır branch director of the left-wing teachers’ union Eğitim-Sen were among those detained on the orders of the Specially Authorized Ankara Public Prosecutors’ Office.
Eğitim-Sen President Ünsal Yıldız denounced the raids as a government operation, adding that his union’s activities on education were a source of concern for the government. “Those who think that similar operations will put pressure on our union are mistaken,” he said.
The operations were launched in 11 provinces, including Ankara, Eskişehir, Aydın, Hakkari, Adana, İzmir, Siirt and Diyarbakır early yesterday, including a 6 a.m. raid on KESK’s headquarters in Ankara, as well as a 5:30 a.m. raid on Eğitim-Sen’s Diyarbakır branch.
Law enforcement officers also confiscated documents from the Siirt branches of the Human Rights Association (İHD) and Eğitim-Sen.
“Being Kurd is a crime in Turkey according to the government and specially authorized courts,” Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy group chair Hasip Kaplan said.“We never witnessed such attacks against unions from the health services to education even during the coup periods in Turkey,” Kaplan said, adding that they would soon bring the issue to Parliament’s agenda.
KESK Secretary-General İsmail Hakkı Tombul said the raid was part of a plan to “marginalize” the confederation, which is fighting the government’s actions.
“The reason for these detentions is our opposition to the [government’s] actions in the public sector. We have been striking [on wage issues] and the education reform called 4+4+4,” he said. “Turkey is on the brink of intervening in Syria, it is [known] that KESK would hit the streets to stand against [Turkey’s] imperialist intervention; they conducted this operation to hinder us from hitting the streets.”
Erol Ekici, the head of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), condemned the operations and said it was not the first raid against KESK and was unlikely to be the last.
“Unions oppose the governments all around the world by nature. Their target is to protect people’s interests. The government just cannot stand it in Turkey,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday during a phone interview.
Ekici also said the alleged ties between KESK and the KCK, the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), were fabricated.
KESK is a major public workers union confederation in Turkey that draws membership from all of Turkey’s communities.