May Day in Istanbul, Turkey

In 1977 around 34 people were killed in Istanbul’s Taksim Square when snipers opened fire on the unarmed May Day rally. And between 1978 and last year May Day rallies were banned from being held there. That changed last year when for the first time after 33 years workers once more were able to gather in Taksim Square. Following on from last year’s lifting of the ban, this year’s May Day rally was the largest at Taksim Square since 1977.

1_May_2011_bannerHundreds of thousands – some say as much as one million – gathered at Istanbul’s central Taksim Square for this year’ May Day celebrations. Members of the Turkish Workers Union, Türk-??, the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions, D?SK, and the KESK (Civil Servants’ Union) and HAK-?? (Confederation of Turkish Real Trade Unions) unions were also present at the square. Workers gathered at four different locations, ?i?li, Dolmabahçe, Mete Street and ?i?hane, and began their march toward Taksim Square, which was completely full by noon.

Significantly, a song in Kurdish was played in the area, a clear indication that on international labour day the workers in Turkey are united irrespective of their nationality.

An indication of how big the rally was is seen from the fact that close to 40,000 police officers were on standby at Taksim Square as a “security measure”, but although sharpshooters were placed on the rooftops of some buildings in the vicinity and police helicopters watched over the demonstration, this year the police did not intervene.

Such a huge turnout is an indication of the growing radicalization of Turkish workers and comes after several important trade union disputes in recent times. It indicates that the Turkish workers are preparing to move.

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