Turkish colleague arrested and due to pressure released

(20 June 2016) Friday morning (17 June) we learned that Turkish security forces had arrested our sister Arzu Çerkezoğlu. She is the General Secretary of DISK and the President of the health workers union (Devrim Saglik-Is). She was taken in custody at the airport of Istanbul on her way to Germany. Her uncle is seriously ill.  Police took her for interrogation. The alleged claim was that she spoke out against the Turkish President during a health workers rally in 31 August 2015 in Diyarbakir. And the police had been looking for her for 10 months. This while she had meetings with Turkish ministers and is a very public figure. She also participated in the workers delegation during the International Labour Conference in Geneva two weeks ago. She spoke at the PSI organized route of shame

EPSU, PSI, ETUC and ITUC reacted immediately. Turkish media and international media started covering her arrest. Social groups in Turkey moved and a social media storm was brewing.  I was at the Federal Congress of the Belgian union CGSP/ACOD. Together with the president of the FGTB now president of ETUC Rudy DeLeeuw, the UNI-Europe General Secretary and several other trade union leaders and CGSP/ACOD activists we stood up in defense and asked for her release.  Due to this combined pressure Arzu was set free later that morning. In a short statement after she said  “Thanks to statements and reactions from trade unions, social movements & international trade union organizations I was released. I missed my flight, back to office... I will make more speeches in favour of labour rights.  I would like to thank ITUC, PSI, ETUC and EPSU, general secretaries and their team, for your prompt & strong reaction.”

The Turkish government is continuing its unacceptable intimidation of trade unionists. It is behaving more and more authoritarian. This is a serious concern as the EU seeks to make deals with Turkey. It should respect the values of the EU. EPSU and PSI have earlier criticized the deal between the EU and Turkey regarding the treatment of refugees. The EU should consider the human rights and trade union rights record of Turkey before continuing with its shame full deal.

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