May Day - the right for workers to express ourselves
Tomorrow, 1 May, is May Day, the international day for workers, celebrated since 1886 around the world. It is the day when workers in countries all over the planet protest about their concerns, and give voice to their human right to organise and speak out.
In two countries in particular, this is a critical issue this year.
In Turkey, the Government has at last responded to trade union demands by officially recognising May Day. But they still refuse to let trade unionists in Istanbul use Taksim Square, the scene in 1977 of a massacre in which 37 people were killed. Thirty years later in 2007, unions were prevented from holding a demonstration there, and 1,000 people were arrested. Again in 2008, the trade union confederations DİSK, TÜRK-İŞ and KESK aimed to commemorate the holiday in Taksim, but their headquarters were besieged early in the morning and attacked with tear gas. Hundreds were arrested. This year, the Turkish unions again will again attempt to celebrate May Day in Taksim Square. They intend to remember their martyrs and exercise their democratic rights and hope to celebrate a peaceful May Day this year.
In Iran, as the Presidential Election looms, official state-run trade unions are allowed to gather on May Day, but the growing independent trade union movement are not allowed to join the official rally and are being threatened with violence and harassment if they hold their own event. Trade unionists and supporters have been put on notice in the most threatening terms that they will be jailed and worse if they don't call off their planned rally tomorrow, and of course there are still many trade unionists in jail – some for holding previous May Day rallies.This year, an international coalition of the International Trade Union Confederation, and sectoral union confederations covering food workers, transport workers, chemical workers and teachers have launched an international call on the Iranian regime to allow workers freedom of speech and freedom of association.
To support these protests, both supported by the TUC, go to www.labourstart.org/cgi-bin/solidarityforever/show_campaign.cgi?c=511 (Turkey) and www.ituc-csi.org/IMG/pdf/Iran_May_Day_Statement_ITUC-EI-ITF-IUF_.pdf (Iran)
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.