May Day Rest In Peace – Ingrid Woudwijk / TURKEY RECAP

Must read

International Workers Day on May 1 in İstanbul was reminiscent of a coronavirus lockdown as large parts of Fatih, Beyoğlu, Şişli and Beşiktaş were closed to traffic

Turkey Recap, May 3, 2024, by Ingrid Woudwijk

The measures were taken to prevent demonstrators from commemorating May Day in Taksim Square, and ran counter to a constitutional court decision allowing for the gathering, according to Amnesty

Despite an unconstitutional ban, opposition parties, unions and other leftist organizations gathered at Saraçhane in Fatih, where police blocked the road towards Taksim, setting the scene for an iconic picture

With more than 42,000 police officers on duty, professor of Political Science at Özyeğin University Murat Somer, said these measures were “a show of physical, coercive force”.

“Against [the background of the 31 March elections], the Erdoğan government clearly tries to show who has the upper hand, that it will determine whether or not and when it will share power,” he told Turkey recap. 

In his own May 1 message, Erdoğan sent his greetings to “all workers who seek an honest [helal] livelihood”. 

At Saraçhane, most eyes were on CHP leader Özgür Özel, who previously had called for a march to Taksim. “This shows the short-comings of democracy in Turkey,” Özel said during his speech, criticizing the heavy police blockades. “That would not be needed in democratic states,” he added.

“The CHP is aware that the process of change will be complex and uneasy,” Somer said. 

“Suppression, manipulation and provocation may be used to take attention away from people’s actual demands”, he added, noting Özel and İstanbul mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu stressed responsibility was needed “while inviting the social opposition to trust them, act together and not succumb to radicalism, maximalism and short-sightedness.”

After several speeches at Saraçhane, some groups marched towards the aqueduct and tried to break the blockade, hitting riot police with their flags and kicking against their shields. Police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and plastic bullets and arrested a total 210 people throughout the day. 

CHP as well as the biggest labor unions DİSK and KESK did not join these attempts to walk to Taksim, drawing criticism from the left and former CHP İstanbul chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu. Somer said he believed CHP should have clearly communicated their plan. 

“They were between a rock and a hard place. If they had previously said they would not go to Taksim, they could’ve been seen as legitimizing an unconstitutional policy by the government. If they had taken on the police and tried to enter Taksim, there could’ve been clashes, which Erdoğan and AKP have always used to deepen polarization and consolidate their base.”

All this provides background to Özel’s meeting with Pres. Erdoğan today (Thursday) at 16:00 Turkish time. Constitutional reforms are among the topics on the agenda

“You cannot make a new constitution in a non-democratic environment and under a government that does not respect constitutional government and rule of law”, Somer said.

More articles

Latest article