May Day protests bring all walks of life together in Turkey

May Day protests bring all walks of life together in Turkey

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
May Day protests bring all walks of life together in Turkey

Demonstrations were held in almost every province of Turkey yesterday to mark the May Day. The biggest demonstration was held in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. DHA photos

Tens of thousands of people gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square yesterday to mark International Workers’ Day in a meeting organized by leftists unions and groups. Attendance were greater than expected, and worker and civil servant unions held three separate rallies in three provinces following a failure to agree on a joint declaration.

One interesting group that participated was the “Muslim Anti-Capitalists,” who came together at the historic Fatih Mosque to pray for workers killed in work-related accidents, before heading to Taksim Square. “Muslims gathered in front of this mosque 40 years ago to attack leftists who were stoning U.S. naval vessels anchored in the Bosphorus,” İhsan Eliaçık, a religious author known for his critiques of capitalism, said in a speech. “Today we are here to renounce their inheritance.”

Women wearing headscarves and hijab led the group on its way to the square. Meryem Ödül, one of the marchers, said she was there to support “my worker sisters and brothers who are forced to work under poor conditions.”

“As a Muslim socialist woman, I see barriers between the segments of Turkey’s society. I think our movement is an example to show that one can be both [Muslim and socialist]. Exclusion and separation is capitalists’ business,” Ödül said.

Another marcher, Adnan Kara, who was carrying a banner which read “Freedom to Slaves” written in Armenian, Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish, said the group has been meeting for the last three years to read the Quran together, and their movement evolved out of that. “We are not close to the Gülen movement, or the government or any leftist organizations… We only have faith in God, labor and freedom,” Kara told the Daily News. The group met up with the People’s Voice Party (HSP) and they became united along the way. “We are correcting a historical mistake today; this means normalization in our eyes,” HSP deputy leader Mehmet Bekaroğlu said.

The Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) and the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers’ Unions (DİSK) were the hosting organizations in Taksim Square, where the huge crowd could not fit. Environmentalists, feminists and gay right activists groups also were present.

“Every day another woman is killed in this country, and the only solution is for women to hit the streets. I am tired of conservative policies oppressing us,” said Mesude Tekin, a 21-year-old student who was marching under a rainbow colored “peace flag.”

A Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) member, Musa Bulut, said Western countries may think that Turkey is becoming more democratic under the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) rule, but that is not the truth.

Although the march was peaceful, a group of nearly 80 people wearing masks attacked shops in the city’s Mecidiyeköy district. The attackers targeted banks, coffee shops and restaurants, breaking shop windows and ATM machines.