Turkey: Accused just for being a (Kurdish) public sector worker

In the last few years, public employees have been identified by Erdoğan as the cornerstones of a solidarity coalition which emerged between the “left” and the Kurds… and they are unjustly losing their jobs for that reason

by Marcelo Netto Rodrigues

Emin Bayran, 45 (medical secretary); Berivan Alptekin, 37 (nurse); Gülistan Içer, 28 (nurse); and Dinçer Külçek, 45 (electrical technician who works for the Health Department) are among the eight public sector worker members of SES (the Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services) in Ağrı (part of the unofficial “Turkish Kurdistan”) who temporarily lost their jobs and are still facing trial for having participated in a peaceful demonstration against the 2015 Suruç bombing — a massacre which claimed 33 lives and wounded 104 on the border of Kobanî. The government accuses them of making “terrorist propaganda” for behaving as if they were PKK members
Ağrı is the capital city of the Ağrı Province. Its mayor, Sirri Sakik, is from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a pro-Kurdish and pro-minority political party — which is treated by Erdoğan as one of his main adversaries. On the other hand, the governor of the Ağrı Province, Musa Işın, is from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) — the same as Erdoğan
Cem Şapak (Turk), Deniz Sağlamtaş (Arab) and Mehmet Uz (Kurd) are the three education support workers affiliated to Eğitim-Sen who are among the 11 public workers facing trial (Eğitim-Sen is affiliated to KESK and to Education International (EI))
This is the peaceful demostration in which 11 public workers took part and the Turkish government is accusing them of making “terrorist propaganda”

The case

On 20th July 2015, young activists who had travelled from different cities of Turkey to the city of Suruç, with the aim to send humanitarian aid to Kobanî (part of the “Syrian Kurdistan”), were gathered in a community cultural centre when a suicide bomber, allegedly recruited by ISIS, exploded himself.

Young activists killed in the Suruç bombing, in May 2015
Berivan Alptekin (front row in blue) during the demo in Ağrı on the 21st of July/2015

The trial on 31st May

SES members based in Ankara, including its co-president Gönül Erden, travelled to Ağrı to attend the trial. The co-president of KESK, Lami Özgen, was also present along with a PSI/EPSU representative who flew in from Geneva.

SES members wait outside of the Palace of Justice in Ağrı minutes before….
KESK co-president, Lami Özge, and SES co-president, Gönül Erden, negotiate with the police to obtain the right for the PSI representative to enter…
…while inside, lawyers and Dirayet Taşdemir (second woman from the right), member of Parliament for Ağrı from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), talk.
Berivan’s mother, a nurse herself who also was persecuted in the 80s during the military dictatorship, came to follow the trial…
… but the final verdict was postponed to 18th October.

Public Services International is a global trade union representing 30 million working women and men who deliver vital public services in 154 countries

Public Services International is a global trade union representing 30 million working women and men who deliver vital public services in 154 countries