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Turkish workers describe appalling conditions at airport site

by Steve Sweeney in Istanbul

WORKERS at a Turkish airport construction site where 500 of them were arrested for taking strike action earlier this month have described conditions there as like a nazi concentration camp.

Speaking to the Star in Istanbul, one worker, who did not wish to be named, detailed the appalling treatment of those racing to complete Istanbul’s third airport by the October 29 deadline.

He explained how the police and the notorious gendarmerie have been stationed inside the plant, which employs around 35,000 workers, since last week’s strike. 

More than 500 were arrested in night-time raids, with many taken away “in pyjamas and slippers” after bosses handed a list of names to the authorities.

“The construction site is like a prison,” the worker explained, likening the arrests to Turkey’s 1980 military coup, under which tens of thousands of trade unionists and leftwingers were arrested in a crackdown on political opponents.

“This is slavery, 19th century conditions” he added.

Dev Yapi-Is union president Ozgur Karabulut said the workers were engaged in “a fight to be human,” adding: “They are attacking us to make us slaves.”

He told the Star that those employed on the site were made to sign an undated letter of resignation when they start work, which is then used by the consortium to threaten them with the sack.

“This is union-busting and is common across the construction industry in Turkey,” he explained.

“If workers join a union or raise a complaint, they produce the letter and say: ‘But you don’t work here. You quit last week’.”

However, resistance is continuing on the site. Mr Karabulut said the “capitalist state is being used against the workers” and showed the Star footage of four people being arrested yesterday for whistling.

“This was their form of protest,” he explained. 

The government and construction bosses are afraid of further action, he said, claiming that a record number of workers were arrested earlier this month.

Sending greetings to workers in Britain, the construction worker struck a defiant tone, saying resistance would continue.

“It reminds me of the works of [Turkish communist poet] Nazim Hikmet, who said: ‘Keep being a public enemy.’ Well, we will keep being public enemies.

“You can detain us, you can torture us, but we won’t give up,” he vowed.


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