May Day in the predominantly Kurdish Regions of Turkey
A few examples of how May Day is celebrated in the Kurdish region and under what kind of circumstances…
The Kurdish region has long been on the agenda for wars and conflicts. However, on the flip side, it is a region of migration, poverty and unemployment. For many years Kurdish cities were listed one after another as cities with the highest levels of poverty and unemployment. However, unemployment, poverty and migration also make this region a ‘center of attraction’ for capital. This is because these conditions make the Kurdish region a ‘heaven of exploitation’ for capital; the government describes it as ‘the region to be turned into Turkey’s China’.
Today is May Day and here are a few examples of how May Day is/will be celebrated in the Kurdish region and under what kind of circumstances…
1. Şirvan: Excessive Drive For Profit + Sub-Contracting = Workplace Murders
Şirvan is a snapshot of a region where, under ‘extraordinary’ conditions of state of emergency, workplace murders have become ordinary. As a result, privatisation policies of the ruling party paved the way for workplace murders in 2004; through the sale of copper manufacture owned by ETI in Silvan to Park Energy owned by Çınar Holding. In order to cut costs, the company turned the mining mill from underground mill to that of an open pit. As if this was not enough, the company then used four different sub-contracting companies to remove job security and lower the wages. Last year in November, 16 workers died in the mines in Silvan, due to negligence, falling victim to workplace murders. The only change made after these murders was the transfer of the company to Cengiz Holding.
2. No Bread For Wanting Peace
Public sector workers and academics demanding peace became primary targets of the legislative decrees, imposed after the state of emergency that followed the attempted coup of 15 July 2016. Public sector workers demanding peace and defending democracy became the target for the ruling party across the country; thousands have been suspended or dismissed. Naturally, the Kurdish regions were the first areas where these practices were exercised. Furthermore, these practices reached a ‘special’ dimension in the hands of the administrators appointed to municipalities in the Kurdish regions. Along with pubic sector workers, thousands of workers/labourers suffered carnage in the hands of these administrators and were fired.
3. Unemployment; The Tail Of ‘Strong Turkey!’
A clear demonstration of the unemployment epidemic in the Kurdish region was the 40 thousand applications in Diyarbakır for a 6-month temporary contract advertised by Turkish labour Agency (İş-Kur) in March, just before the referendum of 16 April. According to 2016 data by Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK), unemployment is highest in the country with 28.3% in the region of Mardin, Batman, Siirt and Şırnak. Besides, İş-Kur has long been used in the Kurdish region by the government as a tool to raise their hopes and string along the unemployed, as well as to transfer resources to bosses. For example, by the government incentive to pay national insurance contributions for 2 million workers employed in the private sector through İş-Kur, with the slogan of “2 million jobs”, leads only to bosses replacing their workforce, even in industrial hubs like Antep, with İş-Kur workers. In short, unemployment in the Kurdish region - double the record breaking official national average of 13% - continues to be the tail of “Strong Turkey”.
4. The “Heaven Of Exploitation” For The Bosses
The ‘centres of attraction’ in the Kurdish region - so called by the government - gain value as businessess in the majority of which the minimum wage is the ‘ceiling wage’. Especially in the textile sector, the wages of young women and children start at 450-500TL. In these businesses, where majority are uninsured workers, those workers earning the minimum wage can be counted on the fingers of one hand., In these businesses in the Kurdish region - and primarily the ‘textile towns’ – ‘working arrangements’ rely heavily on slave labour and unchecked exploitation in precarious conditions.
5. Migrant Workers: The Bottom Of The Pile
For a long time, those that worked in the worst conditions for the lowest wages in seasonal farm work and as builders have been Kurdish workers. However, nowadays, you will hear the same complaint whichever Kurdish city you go to; “Syrian workers arrived, wages went down and we cannot find jobs like we used to in the past”. Ironically, the same was said of the Kurdish workers forced to emigrate to western towns in the 1990s. In other words, Syrian workers have today been placed even lower then the bottom of the pile and became a part of the working class.
The outlines of Labour’s panorama in the Kurdish region, shaped by war and migration on the one hand and unemployment and slave labour on the other, also give the answer to the question on the main demands of workers’ struggle. Peace and democracy instead policies of war and intervention at home and in the Region; employment, bread and humane working and living conditions instead of unemplyment and slave labour conditions…
Long live the celebration of the workers-labourers raising the flag of this struggle in the streets!