In Turkey / Türkiye

ANF News, Sept 19, 2016

The largest trade union body in the UK, the Trades Union Congress, has decided to act on active solidarity with the Kurdish people, including declaring that the release of Abdullah Öcalan from prison is imperative for a restart of a peace process.

LONDON – The top labour organisation in the UK, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), decided on solidarity with the Kurdish people at its annual conference which took place during the week of September 12, 2016. TUC delegates decided to launch an active solidarity effort. Founded in 1868, TUC is the most effective organisation in the UK in social, political and labour areas. It has six million members in 52 unions in different fields.

At the annual, week-long TUC congress held in Brighton, a proposition by Unite the Union, GMB, NASUWT and NUT (teachers) was accepted and the decision for active solidarity with union movements in Turkey and the Kurdish people passed as a conference decree. The proposition accepted in the conference said the attacks on opposition groups in Turkey, mainly the Kurdish people, was concerning and the attacks must stop at once.

The proposition also mentioned the situation of the Kurdish People’s Leader Abdullah Öcalan and called for a reinstatement of the peace process ended by the Turkish state unilaterally last year and for the freedom of Öcalan in order for the process to succeed.

The TUC organised effective campaigns for Nelson Mandela following its decision at its 1971 congress.Marches and rallies along with efforts towards the South African government played an active role in Mandela eventually achieving freedom.

Tommy Murphy, a TUC delegate from Unite the Union, spoke in favor of the proposition. He said, “The world’s silence in the face of [Turkish President] Erdogan’s dictatorship as part of the dirty negotiations to keep Syrian refugees in Turkey and stopping them from disrupting Europe is an utter disgrace. This shameful silence must end at once.”

[The text of the proposition to the TUC, titled ‘Solidarity with the Kurdish People’ and presented as an urgent motion, is contained in the report below. Further below that is a link to the full speech to TUC delegates by Unite delegate Tommy Murphy.]

TUC emergency motion: Turkey and solidarity with the Kurdish population

By the National Union of Teachers (UK), Sept 14, 2016

Commenting on concerns expressed about the state of emergency decree imposed in Turkey on 1 September which has seen the deliberate targeting of Turkey’s trade unionists and public officials, including teachers and academics, Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“The Kurds in Turkey have been subject to assaults and attacks on their culture, indeed their very nationhood.  In the NUT we stand with those in Turkey and our Turkish and Kurdish members here in the UK who are part of the struggle for peace.

“Thousands of teachers have been suspended or removed from their posts. The Turkish regime is seeking to silence the voices of many. Key amongst these are the Kurds. Abdullah Ocalan, the recognised voice and leader of the Kurds has now been imprisoned for 17 years. The NUT supports the call by Congress for his release and for a meaningful peace process to begin.

“On October 5, World Teachers Day, the NUT will be again highlighting the plight of the Kurds and standing in solidarity with Sakine Yilmaz who has been targeted because she is the leader of Egitem Sen, a teachers’ union.”

Full text of Emergency Motion:

Congress notes with the utmost concern the state of emergency decree imposed on 1 September 2016 which, together with other actions in the weeks following the failed attempted coup on 15 July, deliberately targets Turkey’s trade unionists and public officials, including teachers and academics. Congress further notes the mass suspension of over 11,285 Kurdish teachers on 8 September 2016: yet another move in the intimidation and repression of the Kurdish population.

Since his unsuccessful attempt to secure an absolute majority in the election of June 2015, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has embarked on a programme of wholesale repression of all progressive forces that has included the closing down of opposition newspapers, intimidation of parliamentary opponents, imprisonment and harassment of trade unionists, and the detention and imprisonment of human rights activists and all those engaged in trying to build a stable and democratic civil society.

Congress deplores the so-called ‘precautionary’ dismissals and suspensions of tens of thousands of public officials, which is inciting widespread public anxiety and fear, and the escalating assault in Turkey on human rights, freedom of association and freedom of speech. Congress deplores the fact that even those who actively opposed the attempted coup have been subject to the same arbitrary repression and intimidation.

Such behaviour is utterly unacceptable in a country with aspirations to EU membership. Despite ratification of international obligations in respect of democracy and human and trade union rights, recent actions by the Turkish authorities are in breach of those obligations.

Congress expresses its solidarity with our Turkish trade union sisters and brothers. Congress welcomes the actions of global unions and TUC affiliates in supporting the work of trade unions in Turkey.

Noting the alarming and dangerous situation that is developing, Congress resolves to:

i.  call for the immediate reinstatement of all public officials who have been suspended in the wake of the failed coup, urging the Turkish government to adhere fully to ILO fundamental rights, especially regarding the protection of trade unions rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of the press

ii.  step up solidarity activities with all progressive forces in Turkey and in particular with the opposition trade union movement and Kurdish population providing practical or financial assistance to support the trade union movement in Turkey

iii.  write to the UK and Turkish governments expressing the concerns of Congress and demanding that attacks on unions, civil society and the Kurdish population be ended, pressing the UK government to insist that Turkey respects its international obligations and the cessation of unlawful actions against public officials in Turkey

iv.  encourage European and international union federations as well as other international institutions to put pressure on the Turkish authorities for a change of course

v.  call for the restart of the peace process that was unilaterally terminated by the Turkish government in June 2015, and for the release of imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan as an essential element for such a process to be successful.

Mover: Unite
Seconder: NASUWT
Supporters: GMB; National Union of Teachers.

Related readings:
Trade union solidarity with the Kurdish people, speech by Tommy Murphy to annual conference of the Trades Union Congress of Britain, week of Sept 12, 2016

Public forum on the situation in Kurdistan, held in conjunction with the annual convention of the Trades Union Congress of Britain


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