A visit by Mr Mehmat Bozgeyik, the General Secretary of Egitim Sen, the Turkish Teachers union, has been cancelled last minute due to the increasing repression experienced by members of his union. Stephen Smellie, the branch secretary of UNISON South Lanarkshire, has written this letter in response to what he calls ‘an attack on the effective functioning of the union’, along with an appeal written in collaboration with Peace in Kurdistan Campaign, and a draft motion for union members to discuss within their organisation (which can be found below):

5 December 2011

Dear Colleague

Postponement of a visit to UK by Turkish teacher’s union General Secretary due to repression of trade unionists in Turkey

It is with regret that I write to inform you of the postponement of the planned visit to the UK of Mr Mehmat Bozgeyik, the General Secretary of Egitim Sen, the Turkish teacher’s union.

Mr. Bozgeyik was due to meet with the EIS and NUT teacher’s unions, STUC, UNISON and other union representatives and parliamentarians during his short stay in December. He was keen to discuss the situation in Turkey in relation to the trade union movement generally and the teaching trade unions in particular. He was also due to explain the issues relating to ‘mother language’ education with particular emphasis on the continuing refusal of the Turkish government to allow Kurdish children to be spoken to, taught in or to learn the Kurdish language.

The visit has been postponed due to an increase in the repression of members of Mr. Bozgeyik’s union where many leading, national and local, officials have been arrested and detained by the police. This is viewed as an attack on the effective functioning of the union and as such Mr. Bozgeyik has to remain in Turkey to deal with this crisis.

I enclose an appeal on behalf of UNISON South Lanarkshire Branch and Peace in Kurdistan who were jointly sponsoring his visit. In this appeal we quote Mr. Bozgeyik who appeals to trade unionists in the UK,

“I would like to appeal for your support and I urge you to do whatever you can to campaign to raise these issues in your country and to create awareness internationally about the injustices taking place inside Turkey today.”

I attach a model motion which I would ask that you discuss within your organisation.

I am also seeking trade unionists to sign an open letter to the UK press highlighting the ongoing repression of trade unionists in Turkey. If you are willing to consider this please contact me and I will forward a copy of the open letter to you for your consideration.

Please contact me for further information if you wish.

Yours fraternally,

Stephen Smellie

Branch Secretary, UNISON South Lanarkshire

Mobile 07740096864

Draft Motion re the postponement of the visit to the UK of Mr. Mehmat Bozgeyik, General Secretary of the Turkish teacher’s union Egitim Sen

This meeting condemns the arrest and detention of activists of the Turkish teacher’s union Egitim Sen and the trade union confederation KESK. These arrests will lead to difficulties for the functioning of these legal trade unions and limit them in their ability to represent their members effectively.

This has led to the General Secretary of Egitim Sen, Mr. Mehmat Bozgeyik, cancelling a planned visit to the UK.

These arrests are part of a wider clampdown on opposition groups and individuals by the AKP government of Aycip Erdogan and indicate an increasing tendency of the government to close down any forces which do not agree with the policies and programme of the government party. In recent months elected officials, university lecturers, journalists, political party representatives, NGO representatives, lawyers and youth leaders have been detained.

This meeting calls upon the Turkish Government and Prime Minister to release those trade unionists detained in recent months and develop a more democratic and open policy towards all peaceful opposition groups.