Turkish interior minister: 'We will not allow terrorist orgs to use Worker's Day for propaganda'

Turkish Interior Minister Yerlikaya stated that the government would not allow Workers’ Day celebrations in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and would deploy 42,400 police officers province-wide. The minister alleged that “terrorist organizations” would try to use celebrations for “propaganda.”

Duvar English

Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya on April 29 announced that Istanbul's historic Taksim Square in Beyoğlu district would not be opened for celebrations on May 1, International Workers’ Day.

Turkey’s biggest labor unions and political parties including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) have made calls to gather in Taksim Square and, unlike in previous years, did not call for a celebration elsewhere in the megacity.

Yerlikaya said that 103 applications were made in 55 provinces for the Workers' Day celebrations and all of them were permitted. He added, "Some 40 different locations and routes were determined in Istanbul. Calls for Taksim will not be allowed, it is not suitable for May 1.”

Arguing that Taksim Square is not among the places designated under the law on meetings and demonstrations, the minister claimed that this area harbors serious risks as the flow of vehicles and pedestrians is very intense. "Other personal rights and freedoms cannot be put at risk to protect one right and freedom," he added.

However, Yerlikaya continued the government’s discourse on associating any social movement with “terrorist organizations” and stated that some terrorist organizations “also” called their members to gather in Taksim Square.

“We will not allow terrorist organizations to turn May 1 into a field of action and propaganda,” he noted.

Yerlikaya underscored that a total of 29 avenues and the streets leading to them would be closed to traffic “in order to celebrate Workers’ Day in an environment of peace and security.” The minister added that 42,434 police officers would be on duty throughout the province. 

CHP leader Özel calls Yerlikaya

CHP Chair Özgür Özel called Yerlikaya and demanded a review of their decision. Özel told Yerlikaya that Taksim and May 1 have symbolic importance and that as the main opposition leader, he would personally vouch that the celebrations in Taksim would be held without any problems. 

Özel stated that CHP members would also be on duty on May 1 if necessary.

Following Yerlikaya's statement on the ban, the Confederation of Revolutionary Trade Unions (DİSK) reminded the Constitutional Court's (AYM) ruling on Workers’ Day celebrations in Taksim and said "Every person has the right to be there.”

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

In December 2023, 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.

With reference to the AYM’s ruling, DİSK stated, "EVERY PERSON who considers themselves part of that culture has the RIGHT TO BE THERE on May 1 to directly experience the meaning of Taksim Square and to pass on that experience for generations!"