Sunday, May 1, 2011

Another May Day in Taksim Square

PHOTO from Hurriyet Daily News

Today marks International Worker's Day, or May Day, a big day in Turkish politics since 1977 when 34 demonstrators were shot dead in Istanbul's famed Taksim Square. Last year marked the first time in years that the Istanbul municipality allowed May Day celebrations. Before then, the days before May Day were marked with curiosity as to just how bad the clash would be between the police and protestors. Following massive criticisms against the government following
a large crackdown celebrations/demonstrations in 2008, President Gul declared May Day a national holiday the following year.

Always a big day for the left, it seems this year there were some additional players around. From Hurriyet Daily News:
Members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and socialist parties such as the Freedom and Solidarity Party, or ÖDP, were unsurprising sights at the May Day celebrations, as they have been participating in the May Day festivities for a long time.

This year, however, they were joined by members of the People’s Voice Party, or HSP, founded by Islamic-rooted politician Numan Kurtulmuş. Members of the group carried posters saying, “We want a deputy with a headscarf” and “Say no to subcontracted labor.” Party members attending the celebration included women wearing headscarves and young people wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the image of revolutionary Che Guevara.

Barbaros Risal, a young member of the party, said he has socialist views but feels close to the HSP. “Being left-wing means being on the side of the oppressed ones. In this context our rhetoric is no different from the Communist Party’s rhetoric,” said Risal.

Journalists demanding press freedom were also among the groups celebrating May Day in Taksim Square. “As journalists we are subjected to a lot of oppression in Turkey. Now we are here to voice our demand for press freedom and for the release of our colleagues who are in prison just because of their journalistic activities,” said Elif Ilgaz, a journalist who is a member of the group “Friends of Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener,” named after two recently arrested reporters.
This year's May Day also premiered a replica of the banner that hung in the square in 1977.

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