Law enforcement officials took some 65 members of the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) under custody while they launched raids into homes and union buildings Monday morning as part of the probe into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK.) Critics and other union members agree, however, that the raids are connected to the KESK's stance on the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Kurdish identity of the detainees.
Among the detainees is also Lami Özgen, the head of the KESK.
Anti-terror police raided the homes of public sector workers, the KESK's general headquarters in Ankara and the headquarters of other unions that operate under KESK during the crackdown, including the Turkish Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim-Sen,) the Health and Social Service Workers' Union (SES,) the Office Workers' Union (BES,) the Energy Industry and Mine Workers' Union (ESM,) the All Municipal and Local Administration Workers Union (Tüm Bel-Sen,) the Media Communication and Postal Employees Union (Haber-Sen) and the Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Husbandry Sector Public Employees Union (Tarım Orkam-Sen.)
Officials detained at least 33 people in Ankara, while the remaining suspects were taken under custody in Istanbul, the northwestern province of Eskişehir, the southern province of Adana, the southeastern provinces of Diyarbakır and Siirt and the eastern provinces of Ağrı and Bitlis.
The names of the detainees go as follows:
Lami Özgen, M. Sıddık Akın, İzzettin Alpergin, Devrim Kahraman, Ferruh Çelik, Yılmaz Yıldırımer, Mehmet Bozgeyik, Sakine Esen Yılmaz, Nihat Kılınçalp, Çerkez Aydemir, Erdal Turan, Fikret Çağlayan, Seyran Şık, Mehmet Sezgin İbin, Mustafa Bozan, Reşit Sümbül,Aykut Erhan Turgut, Güven Yıldırım, Yunus Akıl, Belgizar Sazak, Bülent Kaya, İzzettin Ekin,Mehmet Arda, Mehmet Sadık Varlı, Murat İrfan Işık, Özkan Yorgun, Cebrail Arslan, Osman İşçi, Emel Emre, Metin Vuramak, Hasan Kaldık, Abdullah Karahan, Kasım Birtek, Sadrettin Kaya, Veysel Özhekti, Yusuf Kösele, Hanım Koçyiğit, Erdal Yılmaz, Bekir Gürbüz, Cezmi Gündüz, Abdülgani Cayhan, Lokman Özdemir, Salih Ersan, Sibel Anıl, Faik Deli, Alican Kaplan, Cemile Duman, Ahmet Koçyiğit, Hadi Aslan, Abdülkadir Baydar, Niyazi Yılmaz, Tarık Kaya, Hamdullah Yıldırım, Şahin Kayıkçı, Şerif İldoğan, Hasan Ölgün, Mücahit Karakuş, Cengiz Paycu.
"Why did you chant slogans against the AKP?
Meanwhile, members of the KESK's Ankara Branches Platform gathered before the courthouse on Tuesday to protest the detentions, while opposition People's Republican Party (CHP) deputies İlhan Cihaner, Veli Ağbaba and Musa Çam also lent their support to the protesters.
The KESK's General Secretary İsmail Hakkı Tombul said they were going to convene before the courthouse with other KESK members arriving from all corners of the country at 09:00 a.m. on Wednesday to turn the area into a "festival of democracy."
Police officials questioned the detainess as to why they participated in the health workers' strike on Dec. 21, 2011 and why they were involved in the protest march toward the Prime Ministry while putting payrolls on fire, according to Tombul.
Officials even inquired of the detainees "the reasons" why they had chanted such slogans as "Women of KESK are our pride," "We shall not surrender to the AKP" and "Victory belongs to the resisting worker," he said.
The CHP's deputy leader Yakup Akkaya also expressed his support for the detainees and said the AKP had learned nothing of democracy during its decade long tenure.
"KESK is not alone in its struggle for labor and democracy," Akkaya said, adding they were going to back the KESK until they won that struggle.
"The AKP government is detaining everyone who does not think like them. The Dec. 21 [health workers'] strike, the resistance mounted against the 4+4+4 [education reform] bill on March 28 and the strike following collective bargaining [talks] constitute the reasons for these detentions," KESK General Secretary Tombul had also said on Monday when he issued a press release before the union's headquarters.
The common thread which connects all the detainees is that they are Kurds, he had also added.
"The AKP cannot tolerate the political engagement of Kurds who do not think like it does. The arrest of 26 of our administrators and members solely within the past one year also testifies to the fact that the repression of KESK has turned systemmatic," Tombul said on Monday.
CHP's Deputy leader Sezgin Tanrıkulu, the Peace and Democracy Party's (BDP) group deputy leader Hasip Kaplan, BDP deputy Demir Çelik from the eastern province of Muş, the Human Rights Association's (IHD) head Öztürk Türkdoğan and representatives of the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DISK) and the Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) were also present at Monday's rally before the KESK's general headquarters.
Authorities had also arrested another nine female members of KESK on Feb. 14 as part of the KCK probe.
"No tolerance for opposition"
Demonstrators including BDP deputies Ayla Akat Ata, İbrahim Binici, Erol Dora and Hüsamettin Zenderlioğlu also gathered before the YKM Mall in Ankara at 17:00 p.m. on Monday and marched toward the Prime Ministry in protest of the latest crackdown.
"KESK has pioneered the legal struggle of unions. It contains people from all segments of society. KESK members have been murdered in the past, but KESK never let up, and never will let up, on its struggle," BDP deputy Ayla Akat Ata told bianet.
Meanwhile, members of the People's Democratic Congress (HDK) also convened before the Taş Bina on Atatürk Avenue in the southern province of Mersin on Tuesday and issued a press release to protest the recent upsurge in the number of detentions and arrests.
"We call upon [the authorities] to end the [employment] of 'state terror' against KESK and other unions [under its umbrella] and to release the KESK's head Lami Özgen from custody and all union leaders, administrators and members," said Meral Tatar who read the press release on behalf of the HDK's Mersin Provincial Council.
The AKP shows no tolerance toward any dissident voice, and all workers, practitioners of law, journalists, intellectuals, artists, women and students who dare to raise their voice are fair game for the government, according to Tatar.
The detentions represent yet another example of the fascism of the Anti-Terror Law and specially authorized courts, she said. (SK/SA/NV/EKN)