Taksim, Labor Day brutality and picnicking
One of the leading electronic newspapers of northern Cyprus carried an interesting and comparative May Day story. In one of the two photos placed on the electronic paper’s “front page,” there was a Turkish Cypriot man picnicking at the famous picnic area around the Boğaz region in the Beşparmak Mountains. In the other, a policeman was sadistically and indiscriminately gassing a crowd trying to make their way to Taksim Square, which was declared off limits by the Istanbul Governor’s Office. The joint caption under the two photographs read: May Day in the TRNC; May Day in Turkey.
Of course barbarism and primitive attitudes displayed by the local authorities on equally stubborn labor unionists were not representative of the entire country. May Day was marked peacefully elsewhere. Nonetheless, Taksim carries symbolic meaning. Labor unions did not want to accept the government’s excuse that construction in one of the largest and perhaps most important squares of the country posed a serious safety risk. Both sides were adamant. At the end scores were wounded, one girl very seriously.
This was not what Turkey deserved. Yet, this is what we get when and if anyone in this country refuses to adhere to the culture of allegiance imposed on the country by the almighty sultan and his political clan. How could anyone have a different opinion, or decide to act against what was prescribed by the sultan, his government or local officials?
Because of the construction, the square could not host tens of thousands of people. Still, rather than declaring the square off limits or imposing some sort of a unique local emergency rule in the area, the government should have approached labor unions with understanding and tenderness. Instead of the absolute ruler opening wide his eyes – like two big burning pieces of coal – and yelling at labor unions that they would get what they deserved if they insisted on celebrating May Day in Taksim Square, he might have pointed at the difficulties and told workers that next year he would join them at Taksim celebrations but that this year they would be better off marking the day at a more convenient place.
But the trend in the country for some time has been the rigid imposition of imperial decrees. “That’s the way it is” is the understanding as if what he says are some divine quotations from the holy book.
All this being said, the adamancy of some labor unionists was also incomprehensible. Taksim Square has been turned into a full-fledged construction site. Forget about staging a big demonstration there, passing from one end of the square to the other has become very problematic. What was wrong in agreeing to the government’s pleas, staging a small ceremony at Taksim and holding the bigger ceremony somewhere else? Was it that impossible? Yet, the executives of labor unions were adamant. They wanted to score some points by battling the local and central government in the Taksim trenches. Well done, they have a share in the sham witnessed on May Day.
Indeed, what occurred in Istanbul on May Day was not what this country deserved. Our local and central government can and should be more compassionate. Irrespective of how wrong workers or labor unionists might be, the responsibility for maintaining peace and security and providing the conditions for the unhindered exercise of “freedom of demonstration” is at the government’s behest. The Constitution clearly states that the right to demonstrate is a fundamental right and no prior authorization is needed. The Constitution mentioned is, of course, a military-instructed one, not the “advanced democracy” document the government aspires to produce. Still, even that Constitution was blatantly violated by the local government and police.
Whereas, like in past years, Turkey could have enjoyed a peaceful May Day and showed the picnicking Turkish Cypriot that this was not at all a “spring day,” but a day dedicated to marking the solidarity of the working class throughout the world.