The Turkish public sector union KESK, of which the teaching union Egitim Sen is a member, is planning a nationwide strike on June 5th, in the middle of the most intense protests against the neo-liberal government of Tayyip Erdogan.
Protesters in the centre of Istanbul occupied the Gezi park in the city last week, near Taksim Square, to prevent the trees being torn down to make way for a shopping mall. Police violently attacked the peaceful protest, causing thousands to come out to support the protesters and the movement to spread to many other cities in Turkey.
The Erdogan government is held up as one of the success stories of neo-liberalism, with fast economic growth, but it has been done at the expense of oppression on a scale, which up to now has hardly been reported in the western press. Only a few weeks ago, 22 KESK leaders including the leader of the teaching union have been released from ten months detention and are facing trial later this months on charges of 'terrorism'.
In classic neo-liberal education reform fashion, the government employs thousands of teachers on temporary contracts, on a third of a regular salary, while thousands of teachers are unemployed and there is a shortfall of tens of thousands of teachers to provide education in the country. Many Turkish teachers have committed suicide in despair at their inability to do the job to which they are committed. As one said in 2011, "" Their demands are simple: they want to do their jobs. They want to develop the country.They want to share what they have learnt with their students. The country needs teachers but teachers are jobless because of the wrong policy.Thats why we are protesting all around Turkey: we want everbody to live an honorable life." In the university sector, teachers have been victimised for campaigning against privatisation and continued assaults on the curriculum.
The situation in Turkey is developing on a daily basis. Last night police retreated from the square, allowing the protesters to claim victory. Teachersolidarity will be following the situation in the country.
According to one analysis - recommended to this website by an academic involved in the struggle against the neo-liberal policies of the Erdogan government: The protesters converged at Gezi Park know that the AKP will continue the neoliberalisation of urban and economic space unless it is challenged by a strong, coordinated grassroots mobilisation. The Gezi Park occupation can succeed where the TEKEL (struggling against the privatisation of the state tobacco company) resistance has faltered in 2010 by igniting a spark that can generalise the struggle against the AKP’s authoritarian neoliberalism.To read the analysis in full, go here.