Industrial Relations in Turkey

Social Dialogue matters

KESK members on trial: 4 October 2012

KESK members on trial: 4 October 2012

On the 4th of October, the KESK-KCK trials will be launched in Ankara. In these trials 69KESK members are accused from giving support and being involved in terrorist activities related to the KCK. These trials are met with national and international protest which accuse the AKP government from intimidating and oppressing the KESK public service union confederation.

A small history

This is not the first time KESK members are arrested and prosecuted for alleged terrorist activities. In the recent years, various KESK members and officials were arrested. Most were freed afterwards, without official charges. Nevertheless, in 2009 several female KESK members were sentenced to several years of prison. Between them were:

  • Songül Morsünbül – former women secretary of KESK
  • Elif Akgül Ates – Egitim-Sen
  • Gülcin Isbert – former women secretary of Egitim-Sen
  • Sakine Esen – women secretary of Egitim-Sen
  • Mine Cetinkaya – former women secretary of Egitim-Sen’s Izmir branch
  • Sermin Gunes – Egitim-Sen Izmir branch
  • Sueda Demir – Egitim-Sen Izmir branch
  • Meryem Cag – BES representative
  • Yuksel Ozmen – SES Izmir Branch

The trial started in Izmir and an international delegation of observers from ETUC and ITUC closely monitored the developments. Currently, KESK brought the case to the supreme court of Turkey.

The trials were mentioned in the 2009 progress report of the EU (link) and written questions were asked on the subject in the European Parliament (link).

Current trial

In the recent history, various KESK members were arrested in separate arrest waves:

  • 13 February 2012:15 women KESK members were taken into custody including several former and current women secretaries. Nine of them were later officially arrested.
  • 25 June 2012 – 50 KESK members, including KESK president Lami Özgen taken into custody. 28 of them were subsequently arrested.

On the 4th of October, together with other unionists, 9 women KESK members will be standing for trial for ‘illegal activities’. These activities include activities like joining demonstrations, joining and organizing strike actions and many others.

An international solidarity action is being organized by several European and International union confederations (link, link, link)  They will send observers to the trial in order to pressure the Turkish government and state to stop these trials against trade unionists.

Why are the KESK members arrested – the government story

For the government and the statist forces, KESK is seen as a threat to the national unity of Turkey. The educational branch of KESK, ‘Egitim-Sen’ continuously fights for the right to ‘education in the mother tongue’ (education in Kurdish). Only under the threat of a foreclosure of Egitim-Sen, the reference to this struggle was left out of the official statutes of Egitim-Sen.

Further, KESK has a strong Kurdish member base and they are well represented on the management level as well. This organization and institutionalization of a Kurdish voice in the Turkish society is viewed as a threat toward the principle of ‘one flag, one nation, one language’.

Further, the judiciary and the police forces accuse the KESK members and the KESK organization to cooperate with the more violent branches of the Kurdish movement (PKK and its civilian branch: KCK). This is why the KESK trials are frequently called the ‘KCK trials’, although the KCK trials are broader and include a lot of non-KESK members.

Why are the KESK members arrested – the KESK story

KESK never hides its involvement in pro-Kurdish autonomy politics. The KESK affiliate in the educational sectors, Egitim-Sen, explicitly included a plea for ‘education in the mother tongue’ as one of its goals. It had to remove this mention from its statutes after it was faced with a closure-case. Nevertheless, KESK denies that its members are involved in terrorist activities and continues to fight for peace in Turkey. According to KESK, the AKP-government and the Turkish state in general has other reasons for prosecuting its members.

  • Weakening and criminalizing the Kurdish movement
  • Weakening Turkish organizations which defend Kurdish rights
  • Weakening the independent and activist labour movement
  • Weakening the AKP opposition forces

Publication date: 2 October, 2012


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This entry was posted on October 2, 2012 by in KESK and tagged , , , , , , .
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