CHP leader Özel insists on celebrating Workers' Day in Taksim Square

Turkish main opposition CHP leader Özgür Özel has reiterated that the Workers’ Day should be celebrated in the symbolic Taksim Square on May 1, saying he “vouches” that no violent incident will occur. The Turkish government has banned protests from taking place at the square since 2013.

CHP leader Özgür Özel during his party's parliamentary group meeting on April 24 (CHP).

Duvar English

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Özgür Özel stated once again on April 24 that the May 1 Workers’ Day should be celebrated in the symbolic Taksim Square in Istanbul, where the government usually bans a celebration or protest to take place.

Speaking during his party’s parliamentary group meeting, Özel said May 1st is a workers' holiday that should be celebrated in Taksim. “Those who once boasted when Taksim was reopened for May 1st are now banning it, giving illegal orders to the police. DİSK (the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions) appealed to the Constitutional Court on this issue, won the case and the judiciary said Taksim should be open on May 1st. But, still keeping Taksim closed on May 1st is nothing more than a complex and a vain concern.”

“If you see Taksim Square as the place of your sovereignty, if you think that people going out there is against you, then you are not sovereign. If you ban it, if you use pepper spray, then maybe you will leave the opening of that square to workers for another May when you will no longer be (the government), because you are finished, you are exhausted,” Özel added.

Özel also “vouched” that there would be no violent incident in Taksim Square. “I am vouching for it, I will be there.

“Open Taksim for May 1st, tell the people that you have received the message of March 31st (local elections). We are extending our hand, which is the hand of the workers, of peace, of self-confidence. Winning Taksim on May 1st will serve the new climate of this country,” he added.

Özel’s remarks came one day after Istanbul Governor Davut Gül announced that the labor unions were banned from celebrating the day in Taksim Square. "Taksim is closed to all such events. We talked to all of (labor unions), especially DİSK, KESK and similar organizations. We explain that the celebrations will not be held in Taksim," Gül said.

Even though Taksim Square has been the historic center for Workers’ Day celebrations, the Turkish government has banned any protest to take place at the square since 2013 and only allowed labor union representatives to hold a symbolic vigil.

In December 2023, the Constitutional Court (AYM) ruled that denying permission for the May 1 celebrations in Taksim Square in 2014 and 2015 constituted a violation of rights. AYM determined that the right to "assembly and demonstration" was violated, emphasizing Taksim's significance as the "shared memory" and "symbolic value" of workers.