Social Dialogue matters
The center of Istanbul, Taksim Square, is becoming the scene of a political debate on the relation between the AKP government and the civil society. The square has an important symbolic political value for civil society organizations as the main square of protest since years and centuries. Above all, the labour unions attach great importance on demonstrating on the square since the shooting of 1st of May demonstrators in 1977.
Yet, in 2013 the Taksim square is partly inaccessible due to construction works. Therefore the Istanbul governor decided not to give demonstration permission to the joint union demonstration for the 1st of May. The union confederations nevertheless decided to march to Taksim anyhow, making reference to the symbolic importance of the square and stating that even with the construction works, Taksim is still better suited for mass demonstrations than all the other squares in Istanbul. The governor’s ban and the unionists stubbornness led to mass violence around the square.
A few days later Taksim square curiously hosted a mass demonstration of Galatasary fans celebrating the fact they won the Turkish championship for the 19th time.
So Taksim cannot host a union demonstration, but a football fan celebration is no problem? Police and politicians referred to the unexpected character of the celebration, yet any football fan knows that the odds of Galatasary becoming champion on that evening were very large and a march on Taksim square in this event was bound to happen.
The events show the double approach towards political and non-political mass demonstrations in Istanbul. Waving a red-and-yellow flag (the colors of Galatasaray) is ok, but waving red or union flags is effectively suppressed.
Published: 12 may 2013