ankara2017The European education trade union movement has been actively supporting its sister organisation in Turkey, Eğitim Sen, in its aim to preserve and promote the observance of fundamental human and trade union rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression, freedom of speech women’s rights as well as child rights.

Eğitim Sen has been under pressure from the Turkish authorities due to its struggle for the respect of child rights, the exercise of the right to education in mother tongue; the elimination of child labour; the fight for women’s rights and democracy.

The government’s attempts to prevent education trade unionists from exercising their activities have been of ongoing and radical dimension. In 2015 thousands of teachers and students across Turkey protested against the government's moves to increase Islamic teaching in schools.

At the beginning of 2016, the level of violence in Turkey’s Southeast drastically escalated. In several cities of the Kurdish region, every day routine and education were interrupted. In January 2016, more than 1100 scholars in Turkey were placed under investigation after they signed a petition calling on the government to restore national peace in the Kurdish Southeast region. Showing solidarity with the population, especially with students, academics and teachers who were affected by the conflict and the abuse of power by the Turkish authorities, EI/ETUCE organised a first Mission to Turkey on 15-18 February 2016. The delegates witnessed that, inter alia, [...] the right to education for tens of thousands of students and the labour and professional rights of thousands of teachers were constantly violated through compulsory transfers from one region to another and to remote areas; teachers suffered threats because of their union membership or their family and parental relations. Students, because of schools being closed or destroyed, were being denied their right to learn [...].

Another wave of undemocratic and large-scale actions hit the society in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016. EI/ETUCE together with other international and European institutions and organisations expressed their greatest resentment about the Turkish government’s mass dismissals of public employees, especially of education personnel in Turkey. These dismissals destroy the livelihoods of thousands of workers, students and of the Turkish society as a whole and erode democratic rights.

On 8 February 2017, following the adoption of emergency decree No. 686 by the Turkish authorities on 7 February 2017 resulted in the unjustified dismissals of 2,585 education personnel employed by the Turkish Ministry of Education, among whom were the acting Eğitim Sen General Secretary, Mesut FIRAT, and several Eğitim Sen administrative officers.

Expressing their continued solidarity with their Turkish colleagues, EI/ETUCE organised a second mission to Ankara on 27-28 February 2017

Families of tens of thousands of workers are left with no subsistence, nor social security. People have been in a stalemate situation, without access to fair, transparent and democratic legal procedures. Additionally, with their passports having been confiscated, they cannot seek work or refuge abroad.

In March 2017, EI/ETUCE called upon their member organisations to continue supporting Eğitim Sen and the education community in Turkey by sending protest letters to the Turkish government, the Turkish embassy in their countries and their national representations in Turkey to protest against the persecution of teachers and academics in Turkey and urging their governments to request the Turkish government to comply with international laws and international labour standards.

Demonstrating financial solidarity with Eğitim Sen many member organisations have contributed to the EI Solidarity Fund. The Fund was established to assist member organisations in emergencies such as natural disasters, famine, war, persecution or other life threatening situations. The Fund, established with voluntary contributions from member organisations and administered by the EI Secretariat, represents a visible example of solidarity among teachers around the world.

In the aftermath of the prolonged state of emergency and the referendum, Eğitim Sen keeps on fighting for the respect of human and trade union rights and freedoms, quality education, women rights , academic freedom, university autonomy , the rule of law and justice all over the country.

EI/ETUCE continue supporting and making all necessary efforts to achieve a common goal – prosperous future for children and youth in Turkey.