Unions go on one day strike in support of Gezi protests
On June 17, five Turkish unions, including the Confederation of Public Workers union (KESK) and the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK), said they will go on strike in support of the forced removal of hundreds of demonstrators from Taksim square in central Istanbul. The total number of members of the five unions amounts to nearly 800,000, including doctors, engineers and dentists.
KESK spokesman Baki Cinar said in a statement: ‘our demand is for police violence to end immediately.’ The move comes after more than two weeks of heavy clashes between protestors and police forces. According to a recent survey, more than 11,000 people have suffered from the effects of teargas used by police forces. The Turkish medical association accused the police of using ‘chemical gasses savagely.’
‘We will take Taksim square again, and we will win Gezi Park again’
Despite the heavy use of teargas the protestors have shown little sign of backing down. Alican Elagoz, a spokeswoman for one protestors’ group, told Associated Press: ‘We will take Taksim square again, and we will win Gezi Park again.’
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meanwhile, held a meeting signaling the start of the local election campaign, addressing hundreds of thousands of people in a massive show of strength. He said: ‘We’ll identify one by one those who have terrorized the streets of our cities. We have all recordings of city surveillance recordings, we’ll trace the media and social media to find those who have provoked incidents.’
The gap between the protesters at Taksim Square and the supporters of Erdoğan might lead to growing tensions in an increasingly divided political system. It remains unclear, however, if it will have serious implications for the government of Prime Minister Erdoğan. Only two years ago he was re-elected with an overwhelming support of almost 50% of the votes, after years of economic prosperity. Protestors claim that Erdoğan rule is increasingly authoritarian and accused him of being a dictator.
Erdoğan said on June 17, that the Turkish government would use 'all its powers', and 'the Turkish armed forces in the cities' if necessary to end the weeks of unrest. It is the first time that the Islamist rooted party threatens to use military force against the protesters. The army is traditionally seen as a bulwark of secularism.
On June 12, Erdoğan offered a referendum to decide the fate of Gezi Park. Although this indication of compromise sparked hope for the protesters, he meanwhile ordered his interior minister to end all antigovernment protests within 24 hours. Most protesters now want more than to decide over the fate of Gezi park, they want change.
The protests began on May 28, triggered by a plan to redevelop Istanbul’s Gezi Park, but soon turned into nationwide protests after the perceived violent response of the authorities under their three-term prime minister Erdoğan.