GuNAY HILAL – May Day ban in Taksim this year resulted in casualties

May Day ban in Taksim this year resulted in casualtiesMay Day has been an issue of debate between the government and labor unions since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) introduced a ban on celebrating this day at Istanbul’s famed Taksim Square.Labor Day was declared an official public holiday by Parliament in 2009 and the AK Party government allowed May Day celebrations to be held at Taksim from 2010 to 2012, which saw no clashes between marchers and the police. Despite the peaceful atmosphere of the demonstrations, the government reinstated the ban on celebrations at Taksim Square in 2013. This year, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan suggested that May Day celebrations instead be held at a public square in Istanbul’s YenikapI district, which is far from the media spotlight. Labor unions and rights groups insisted on holding the event in Taksim as Taksim Square and its neighborhood has symbolic value for the sorrowful incident of May Day on 1977, in which 34 demonstrators died in police fire.On Thursday, around 20,000 riot policemen were deployed to Taksim in order to prevent marchers from reaching the square. In addition, Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu canceled for the day a number of public transportation routes, including ferry services between the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. Under the shadow of the restrictions, May Day demonstrations resulted in 90 casualties and nearly 300 detentions in Istanbul and Ankara.Nuriye Akman, a Zaman daily columnist, wrote in her Friday piece that Labor Day is supposed to be a holiday, but it has turned into a battle in Turkey. “The governments [of Turkey] have never really appreciated the importance of labor and the notion of equality,” Akman said. According to the columnist, the country’s right-wing left making demands for equality and fairness to the leftists and the government did everything it could to provoke violence during the May Day celebrations. “The protesting demonstrators were unable to control their rage against the provocation by officials. This led to the rightists saying ‘This [violence] was what they intended to’,” Akman commented. Akman referred to the Anti-capitalist Muslims rights group, whose mottos are, “Property belongs to God, labor belongs to the workers” and “Down with capitalism.” The fact that the Anti-capitalist Muslims took to public squares on May Day holding up banners did not fully change the perception of right-wing officials, according to Akman. “Apart from the ban, what we really need to ask the government is: ‘Why didn’t you march with them? Why doesn’t the AK Party participate in May Day celebrations? What harm will it do you [the government]’?” Akman said.Hurriyet daily columnist Ahmet Hakan, who wrote on Friday that he attended the May Day march towards Taksim, shared some of his own experiences in his piece. Hakan stated that there were headscarved women trying to march toward Taksim from the Fatih district and that the police had fired tear gas at them as well. Posting a photograph of a headscarved woman receiving treatment after being exposed to tear gas in his column, Hakan commented, “I bet no officials from the government would regard this woman as one of their ‘headscarved sisters’,” in reference to ErdoIan’s way of addressing headscarved women in Turkey.In his Friday piece, the Bugun daily’s Erhan BaIyurt noted that in 2008, it was the AK Party government which took a democratic step designating May 1 as “Labor and Solidarity Day” and the day became an official holiday in 2009. According to BaIyurt, this year’s May Day casualties stemmed from the government’s reinstatement of the ban on gathering at Taksim Square as May 1 in 2011 and 2012 were celebrated at Taksim peacefully.

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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