Year 2000 No. 119, July 25, 2000

Workers Themselves Must Place the Right to a Livelihood on the Agenda

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Workers Themselves Must Place the Right to a Livelihood on the Agenda

The Campaign for Human Rights in Turkey

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Workers Themselves Must Place the Right to a Livelihood on the Agenda

The fighting programme for the working class, centred around the way forward to Stop Paying the Rich – Increase Investments in Social Programmes, will begin to make headway when the workers themselves place its demands on the agenda.

One such demand is that the right to a livelihood be given a guarantee in law. This is not an issue which is simply whether a person’s job is threatened or not. It is to do with the right of a human being to food, clothing and shelter in the first place, and that in the 21st century society is wholly responsible for this fundamental right to be concretely guaranteed.

This issue arose, for example, when thousands of jobs at Longbridge and in the West Midlands hung in the balance over the sale of Rover by BMW. What should the demands of the workers be in those circumstances? Should they put pressure on the government to put pressure on BMW? Should they demand a British owner be found? Or should they take steps to end their marginalisation by themselves placing on the agenda that the right to a livelihood be recognised as a basic human right, and given a legal guarantee? In taking action, the workers began to create the conditions where such discussions can flourish, and the workers begin to take centre stage with their independent programme.

In the wake of the Rover struggle, it is now reported that, it is said, under pressure from the European Union and the trade union leaders, the government is proposing that in the Labour manifesto for the next general election, the pledge will be given that workers whose jobs are threatened by sell-offs or mergers will have a statutory right to consultation enshrined in law. It is reported that by this means, Labour ministers will hope to meet trade union demands for a flagship policy that will enthuse traditional Labour Party voters in its "heartlands" areas. On the other hand, TUC General Secretary John Monks wants the government to back the EU directive on workers’ rights, which would oblige all firms employing at least 50 people to consult over developments where employment "may be under threat", and over issues such as skills training.

All this comes within the sphere of the regulation of the relations between labour and capital on the one hand, or the dog-fights between the different sections of European capital as how best to regulate the labour market on the other. Strictly speaking, none of this touches on the rights of the workers at all. Consultation may take place, but it is not a consultation between equals. The capitalists not only have the power to hire and fire, but this is backed up by the political power which determines that it is not the working people who can enforce their interests but that the monopolies demands to be competitive in the global market have legal expression.

Workers need to discuss such questions and present their own views on how such problems can be sorted out. They must seriously discuss how their rights can be affirmed and how it is that this society will not recognise them. As they begin to place their fundamental demands on the agenda, so they will begin to break with the passivity and marginalisation that this society imposes on them and begin to concretely take centre stage to lead society out of its crisis.

Article Index

The Campaign for Human Rights in Turkey

WDIE has recently received the July 2000 Bulletin of the Campaign for Human Rights in Turkey. The campaign was launched by the Liverpool Dockers' Shop Stewards' Delegation to Turkey, July 1996. The text of the Bulletin follows:

Attacks on free speech

Mustafa Yalciner, member of the General Executive Board and Head of the International Relations Bureau of the Party of Labour, has been sentenced to 13 months imprisonment due to a speech he made at a panel, "People and Freedoms" in 1993 as part of a Cultural and Arts Festival organised by the Community Centres Association in Ankara. The imprisonment was based on Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code. He is also banned from being involved in politics. Based on this article, many recognised politicians and intellectuals have gone into prison and been banned from participating in politics.

Haydar Kaya, the vice president of the Party of Labour; has been sentenced to one year imprisonment and a fine of 600 million Turkish lira (600 pounds) because of a speech he made in 1996 during the Human Rights Week activities organised by the Human Rights Association. The Ankara No.2 State Security Court concluded that Kaya's speech was of a separatist character as he demanded a working class based solution to the Kurdish question. (11 July)

Songul Ozkan, the owner of Evrensel Publishing, has been sentenced to two years imprisonment and a fine of 190 pounds because of the leaflet: 'The Kurdish Question and Democratisation" published in January 2000. The Istanbul No.3 Security Court concluded that the leaflet contained "ideas which would incite enmity amongst people". Evrensel Publishing condemned the sentence and expressed that the main idea of the leaflet was that the Kurdish question could be resolved only in a democratic environment free from any repression and with the brotherhood among the working people

Kamil Tekin Sürek, member of EMEP Executive Committee, columnist on Turkish daily Yeni Evrensel and lawyer for the Metin Göktepe case, was arrested on 24 June, after taking part in the panel "Democratic Constitution and Turkey" organised by the HADEP Youth. He was kept for 48 hours and lawyers were not allowed to see him. (26.6.00)

Necmetin Erbakan, head of the Islamic Welfare Party, which was closed down, has been sentenced to one year imprisonment because of a speech he made while he was Prime Minister.


In Turkey's 605 prisons there are 70,000 inmates of whom 12,800 are political prisoners. Currently the government is debating a general amnesty for all but political prisoners. Many are protesting against this since it would mean amnesty for criminals who have been involved in the mafia etc. At the same time the government is building solitary confinement cells for political prisoners, which in a country like Turkey will increase the likelihood of torture and oppressive treatment of those prisoners. Trade unions, democratic organisations, political parties such as EMEP and HADEP as well as artists and musicians have joined together with the Human Rights Association (HRA) to organise protest around these issues. Demonstrations have been attacked by the police, e.g. outside Bayrampasa Prison where 20 of the 50 participants, including the Istanbul Branch chair or HRA, Eren Keskin, were arrested. (28.600). Members of HADEP were attacked during another demonstration and 100 were arrested. (7.6.00). 20 people were also recently arrested when protesting on behalf of Murat Dil. Diagnosed with liver cancer, he died in prison on 6 July as a result of being denied medical treatment.

Torture in Custody

HADEP (People's Democracy Party) members, Bilgin Akkoyun, Cevher Ay, Yasir Isleme and Burhan Yucel at a press conference at IHD (Human Rights Association) in Istanbul stated they were tortured in custody and threatened with "disappearance". They were among the 30 other HADEP members arrested on 11 June 2000. (20 June 2000)

A fifteen-year-old student (N.A.) was tortured by Police officers in Eskisehir Police Station after being arrested and charged with burglary, which he denied. (2.6.00)

'Palestine Hanging' Instruments in Police Headquarters: the Turkish Parliament Human Rights Committee found Palestine hanging instruments in Kucukcekmece, Istanbul Police Headquarters. Recently, Serkan Aksow, Kenan Ak and Nurettin Aydas were tortured by 'Palestine hanging' after being arrested for mugging. Although they were given a "no sign of torture" medical report this was disproved by the Public Prosecutor's report after the accused showed the signs of torture on their bodies at he time of the court hearing. (17 June 2000)

An assembly against rape and sexual assault under arrest took place between 10-11 June. Lale Acik, one of many, (arrested on 7 March 99) disclosed that she was raped at the Tokat Security Quarters during her court hearing but a request for a medical report was refused. (10.6.00)

Attacks on workers and farmers protesting against IMF policies

Heath workers of Okmeydani (Istanbul) Social Security Hospital protesting against the government’s attempts to implement IMF directives in the health sector were attacked and arrested by police. (27.6.00)

Workers from Energy, Construction and Road Workers Union and members of TMMOB (Union of Architects and Engineers Association of Turkey) demonstrated on 31 May and 7 June against privatisation, poverty, exile, subcontracting and IMF polices. Thousand of workers held a one day stoppage in many cities on 28 June for equal wages, wage rises, the right to strike and collective bargaining. In Ankara the deputy PM finally agreed to see a delegation of workers, promising to meet their demands. (25.6.00)

With the support of small farmers from other cities 15 thousand participated in a rally against the government's IMF based agriculture policies in the North-west town of Tekirdag. (30.6.00)

Egitimsen (Teachers Union) was raided, materials confiscated and 5 administrators arrested. (9.6.00)

Environmental protests

Bergama villagers who have fought against the mining company Eurogold for 10 years have taken to the streets again. The Prime Minister has sent a memo to the relevant ministries to give Eurogold the go-ahead to start operations despite the court decision against them. Eurogold is benefiting from "international arbitration" (MAI). (14.6.00).

45 supporters of environmental groups including Greenpeace have been accused of holding a demonstration without permission in Taksim-Istanbul. They were brought before the court on 1st June and face a possible 2 year imprisonment. The protest (on 29 February 2000) was against the building of a new nuclear power station at Akkuyu on a known earthquake fault line (1.6.00)

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