"If the unions are on our side, why are there 15,000 riot police between us and them?"
March 2nd, despite all our objections, the tents were taken down by
the union bosses and the street in front of the Turk-Is HQ was
cleared with us being told we had to return home. 70 to 80 of us
stayed in Ankara in order to discuss what we could do for the next
three days. After these three days, 60 of us returned to our
hometowns, and 20 of us including myself stayed for two more days, so
although the Ankara struggle lasted for 78 days, we stayed for 83. We
agreed that we had to work very hard in order to advance the
struggle, and I too eventually returned to Adiyaman. As soon as I got
back from Ankara, 40 of us went to visit our class brothers and
sisters involved in the Cemen Tekstil strike in Gaziantep. The Tekel
struggle was an example to the class. I was, as a Tekel worker, both
proud and also thought that I thought we could do more for our class
and that I had to contribute to our class. Although my economic
situation did not allow it and despite the exhaustion of 83 days of
struggle and other problems, I had to do more than I could to move
the process further. What we had to do was to form a formal committee
and take the process into our own hands. Even if we couldn't
formalize it, we at least had to form it by keeping in contact with
workers from all cities, since we were to return to Ankara on April
We have to go to everywhere we can and tell people about the Tekel struggle to its last detail. For this we have to form a committee and unite with the class. Our job is harder than it seems! We have deal with capital on the one hand, the government on the other and the trade-union bosses on the other hand. We all have to struggle in the best way. Even if our economical situation isn't good, even if we are physically tired, if we want victory, we have struggle, struggle, struggle!!!
Although I was away from my family for 83 days, I stayed at home only for a week. I went to Istanbul to tell people about the Tekel resistance without even having a chance to catch up with my wife and children. We had many meetings of the informal Tekel workers committee especially in Diyarbakir, Izmir, Hatay, and I participated in many meetings with fellow workers from the informal committee in Istanbul. We had meetings in the Mimar Sinan University, one in Sirinevler Teachers' Hostel, one in the Engineers' Union's building, we had discussions with pilots and other aircraft workers from the dissident Rainbow movement in Hava-Is [a trade union], and we met with law employees. We also met with the Istanbul chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party and asked for Tekel workers to be given the chance to speak on the Newroz holiday. The meetings were all very warm. Our request from the PDP was accepted and they asked me to participate in the Newroz demonstrations as a speaker. Because I had to return to Adiyaman, I suggested a fellow worker from Istanbul as a speaker. While I was in Istanbul, I visited the struggling firemen, Sinter metal workers, Esenyurt municipality workers, Sabah newspaper and ATV television strikers on the last day the struggling workers from the Istanbul Water and Sewers Department (ISKI). For half a day, we talked with these workers how we can make the struggle grow bigger and also we told them about the Tekel struggle and discussed. What the ISKI workers told me first was that they started their struggle with the courage they got from the Tekel workers. Every demonstration I went to, every struggle I visited, this I heard, ‘We got courage from Tekel', in the week I spent in Istanbul, this made me feel the happiest. The time I spent in Istanbul was very fulfilling for me also. There were also bad things, of course, unfortunately a close relative of mine passed away but I still decided not to leave and stay the whole week as planned.
Speaking of bad things, in this period, 24 student class brothers and sisters were kicked out of their school (Mehmetcik High School) for supporting the Tekel struggle. Also, in Ankara, a class sister of ours from the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK), Aynur Camalan, was fired. When capital is attacking us workers like this, so ruthlessly, we have to unite against it. Thus we made two press announcements in Adiyaman and showed that our friends were not alone. We also had been preparing for the demonstration on April 1st. What the trade-union bosses wanted was to go to Ankara with 50 people from every city, with a total of one thousand. As the informal committee, we increased this number from 50 to 180 in Adiyaman alone, and I myself came to Ankara with ten other workers on March 31st. Despite all the announcements of the union to make the number limited to 50, we managed to help 180 workers come (with us covering the costs, not the union), because we were aware of how the trade-union wanted to manipulate like they did before. We had meetings with lots of mass organizations, associations and unions. We visited Aynur Camalan, the TUBITAK worker sister, who had lost her job.
On April 1st, we gathered in Kizilay [the centre of Ankara, the capital of Turkey] but we had to make a lot of effort to get to the street in front of Turk-Is, because 15 thousand policemen guarded the building. What were all these policemen doing in front of us and the trade-union? Now, we have to ask those who stand against us even when we talk about the union bosses, even when we say the unions should be questioned: if there is a 15 thousand-strong police barricade in front of us and the trade-union, why do the trade-unions exist? If you ask me, it is quite natural for the police to protect the union and the union bosses, because don't the union and the trade-unionists protect the government and capital? Don't the trade-unions exist only in order to keep the workers under control on behalf of capital?
On April 1st, despite everything, 35-40 of us managed to cross the barricade one by one and went to the street in front of Turk-Is. Our purpose was to have a certain majority and to manage for other friends of ours to get there, but we failed, unfortunately our majority couldn't deal with 15,000 policemen. The trade-union had declared previous that only 1000 of us would come to Ankara. As the informal committee, we managed to increase this number to 2300. 15,000 policemen were blocking the way of 2300 people. We gathered on Sakarya street. We were to at least spend the night there, with all those who came to support us. Within the day, we had been attacked twice by the police with pepper gas and police batons. Our purpose was of course to spend the night on the street in front of the Turk-Is HQ but when we came up against the police, we stayed in the Sakarya street, but during the night the trade-unionists silently and cunningly called for fellow workers to leave the area. We remained only as a certain minority. The trade-unionists called myself too several times and told me to leave the area but we did not heed to the call of the union bosses and stayed as a certain minority. When the supporters also left around 23:00, we had to leave as well.
There was to be a press announcement on April 2nd. When we were about to enter Sakarya street at about 9:00 in the morning, we were attacked by the police, who again used pepper gas and batons. An hour or so later, about a hundred of us managed to cross the barricade and had a sit-in. The police kept threatening us. We kept resisting. The police finally had to open the barricade and we managed to unite with the other group who had remained outside. We started marching towards Turk-Is but the union bosses did what they had to again, and made their press announcement 100 meter away from the Turk-Is HQ. No matter how we insisted, the union bosses resisted to going to the street in front of Turk-Is. The union and the police joining their hands, and some among us actually falling for what they stood for, we ended up not managing to go to where we wanted to go. There was an interesting point among the things the trade-unionists had said. They said we will come back on June 3rd and stay in front of Turk-Is for three nights. It is curious how we will manage to stay there for 3 nights, as we didn't even stay for a single night this time. Afterwards, the police had to first protect the trade-unionists from us and aid their escape, then we were left alone with the police. Regardless of the threats and the pressures of the police, we did not disperse and then we were once again attacked with pepper spray and batons and had to disperse. In the afternoon, we had a black wreath made by some flourists in order to condemn Turk-Is and the government, which we left in front of the Turk-Is building.
My dear class brothers and sisters, what we have to question is, if there are 15 thousand policemen barricaded in front of the trade-union and the worekrs, why do the trade-unions exist. I am calling on all my class brothers and sisters, that if we want victory we have to struggle together. We the Tekel workers have lit a spark, and we shall turn it into a massive fireball all together. In this sense, when I express my respect for all of you, I want to conclude my text with a poem:
The steam of the tea flies away while our lives are still fresh
Cloths get as long as roads, and only sorrow returns
A bown of rice, they say our food has landed on our homes
Yearnings become roads, roads, where does labour go
Hunger is for us, cold is for us, poverty is for us
They have called in fate, living with it is for us
Us who feed, us who hunger, us who are naked again
We have not written this fate, it is us who will break it yet again
We the Tekel workers say that even if our head hits the ground, still we shall leave an honorable future for our children.
A Tekel Worker from Adiyaman