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Action on Erdoğan: GMB and international solidarity

12 Nov 2020

Solidarity with others is the essence of trade unionism and the maxim that an injury to one is an injury to all is demonstrated by GMB supporting people in struggle around the globe.

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International solidarity starts when working people come together and our union’s internationalism comes from our members wanting to take action.

Every year members bring motions to GMB Congress to raise awareness of injustices taking place around the world and ask our union to stand with those people affected and their fights for justice, wherever they may be.

In each GMB Congress from 2017-2019, a motion was submitted concerning the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey since a failed coup took place in 2016.

In its aftermath, the Turkish Government led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a State of Emergency which gave it an excuse to dismiss public officials, including trade union officials, arrest striking workers and imprison journalists and political opponents.

Turkey is a close trading partner of the UK, yet the ITUC’s Global Rights Index Report for 2019 ranked the country as one of the ten worst in the world for violating workers’ rights, with “no guarantee of rights” in the workplace. Under the two-year state of emergency 130,000 public sector workers have been dismissed.

Every year members bring motions to GMB Congress to raise awareness of injustices taking place around the world and ask our union to stand with those people affected and their fights for justice, wherever they may be.

In 2018, 31 construction workers were jailed for protesting unsafe working conditions on a building site for a new airport after 52 colleagues died on site.

Motions 365 and 394 adopted by our 2017 and 2018 Congress together make it clear that trade relations with Turkey should not be at the expense of breaches of human rights, and that instead of selling arms, the UK Government should be issuing economic sanctions on the Turkish Government.

These motions make GMB’s view clear that Turkey’s slide into autocracy has prevented the achievement of many social and political freedoms in the country and in the wider region.

The Kurdish people and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) have been brutally repressed in the country. The Turkish Government has swapped peaceful negotiation with military aggression both inside Turkey and by illegally invading Northern Syria, opening the door for ethnic cleansing of Kurdish communities who led the international fight against the ISIS terrorist group.

In each GMB Congress from 2017-2019, a motion was submitted concerning the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey since a failed coup took place in 2016.

By moving these motions at our Congress, our members have made a real difference to supporting those in struggle for peace, human rights and democracy in Turkey.

Following motion 431 at our 2019 Congress, GMB has stepped up its efforts as part of an international campaign to call for the immediate release of trade unionists, teachers, journalists and campaigners for peace imprisoned by the Turkish state. We stand in solidarity with the HDP, independent trade unions in Turkey and the wider Kurdish liberation movement.

GMB co-led the initiative to launch the Freedom for Öcalan campaign in 2016 which calls for the unconditional release of Abdullah Öcalan, the recognised leader of the Kurdish movement in the region imprisoned for 20 years in solitary confinement by Turkish authorities despite being essential to restarting the peace process.

In May 2018 GMB joined sister unions and Kurdish refugees to demonstrate outside Downing Street against the visit of President Erdoğan to the UK and in 2019 held a fringe meeting at our own Congress on Freedom for Öcalan to galvanise our activists to join the campaign.

Shortly afterwards in September we worked with sister unions to achieve TUC support for the campaign, which has in turn helped secure support from the international trade union movement for putting Erdoğan’s appalling human rights record on the public agenda particularly when London held the NATO Summit.

The passing of motions at Congress is just the start – GMB works throughout the year to turn the policies established through our democratic structures into meaningful action.

Following the October Turkish invasion of the Rojava region in Northern Syria, GMB and sister unions wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on the UK Government to immediately condemn the invasion and work with the international community to prevent imminent catastrophe and protect civilian lives.

The passing of motions at Congress is just the start of GMB’s work – the union works throughout the year to turn the policies established through our democratic structures into meaningful action, in accordance with the principle of international solidarity that has guided our union since its foundation.

These campaigns are ongoing and need your support. If you or your GMB branch would like to support the union’s campaigning on this issue please email us at hello@gmb.org.uk.

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