May Day in Turkey no longer worker's, but policeman’s holiday: Human Rights Watch

May Day in Turkey no longer worker's, but policeman’s holiday: Human Rights Watch

May Day in Turkey no longer workers, but policeman’s holiday: Human Rights Watch

Plainclothes policemen stroll down central Istanbul’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, İstiklal Avenue, on May Day as their colleagues spray pressurized water, shoot tear gas and fire rubber bullets at demonstrators trying to reach Taksim. REUTERS Photo

May Days in Turkey and particularly in Istanbul, where scenes of police crackdowns on demonstrators trying to held Labor Day demonstrations in the iconic Taksim Square have become customary, have turned into a “policemen’s holiday,” Human Rights Watch has said.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior researcher for Turkey at the New York-based organization, said the government’s insistence on cutting access to the square through the deployment of nearly 40,000 police officers, 50 water cannon trucks (TOMA) and tear gas prevented demonstrators from celebrating the holiday in the square.

“As one cartoon circulating on Twitter pointed out, May 1 had become the policeman’s holiday, not the workers,” Sinclair-Webb wrote in a dispatch on May 2.

For the second year running, thousands who gathered in the districts of Beşiktaş and Şişli to march toward Taksim Square and force the authorities’ ban upon the call of unions and other organizations, including the main opposition party, faced repeated police crackdowns.

Human Rights Watch noted that demonstrators who gathered at the headquarters of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK) in the Şişli district were dispersed with tear gas and water cannons.

Sinclair-Webb also criticized the reasons put forward by the government as “excuses.”

“A favorite was unspecified intelligence reports pointing to ‘provocation by illegal groups.’ For the past two years the prime minister and other ministers have simply made it known that they don’t want demonstrations in Taksim or any other city center location and are ready to provide spaces they judge appropriate,” she wrote, stressing that this was incompatible with the essence of demonstrating.

“What they refuse to acknowledge is that the very point of a demonstration is to disrupt the flow of daily life, to draw attention to issues, and to champion rights in public. Being relegated to a place where you are out of sight and not bothering anyone defeats that purpose,” Sinclair-Webb said.

Click here to read the full dispatch.