Thousands celebrate May Day in Turkey

Labor unions mark May Day amid tight security in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy district; arrests made in Taksim area

Thousands celebrate May Day in Turkey

By Handan Kazanci


Thousands of people gathered on Monday to celebrate International Workers’ Day across Turkey, mainly in Istanbul and the capital Ankara.

Labor unions and political parties, including the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) took part in a major rally in Istanbul’s Bakirkoy district.

This year, labor unions again marked May Day in an open-air meeting area on the European side of Istanbul, rather than in Taksim Square -- a traditional rallying point.

Tight security was visible at all entrances and exits to the Bakirkoy venue.

Banners carried by protestors read, “Long live May 1” and “Long live May 1 for work, peace, freedom and justice”.

Public transport was also affected, with several roads to Bakirkoy closed to traffic. Taksim Square’s metro station was also shut. 


Turkish police took tight security measures ahead of the May Day celebrations in various parts of Istanbul including Mecidiyekoy and Taksim Square.

Gatherings in Taksim Square have been banned by the authorities.

From early Monday, Turkish police made several arrests across the city. Officers detained two women who managed to breach barriers set up on Sunday night around Taksim Square.

The pair had unfurled banners reading “Labor will have factories, land, political power, everything,” and “Union of struggle”.

Istanbul police also arrested a group of 20 people who gathered in Istanbul’s Besiktas district to march on Taksim Square.

Twenty-eight other people who attempted to enter the square were also detained.

In Istanbul’s Sisli district, police stopped a 100-strong group who wanted to march in the direction of Mecidiyekoy, close to Taksim Square. Some of these were also arrested. 


Some unions, including members of the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions commemorated victims of a May 1, 1977 massacre by leaving flowers close to Taksim Square.

Thirty-seven people died on May 1, 1977 when unidentified gunmen fired on a crowd of protestors.

In 2010, tens of thousands of people gathered peacefully in the square for the first time in more than 30 years, but bans on May Day gatherings there have re-emerged since 2012.

In Ankara, May 1 events were held at Kolej and Anadolu Squares. Around 4,500 police officers backed by helicopters were on duty.

People also gathered in front of the capital’s main train station to remember the more than 100 people who died in a twin-bomb attack in 2015, the bloodiest in Turkish history. 

Istanbul Police Department told Anadolu Agency the annual celebration of workers' rights would see tight security measures across the city.

More than 30,000 police officers are on duty across Turkey's largest city, the statement said. While three helicopters backed officers, 120 water cannon were also deployed.

May 1 is celebrated by many labor unions and workers worldwide. May Day is an official holiday in many countries, including Turkey.

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