Working Class Anger mounts in Turkey

Jay Moore research at
Sat Apr 7 12:55:34 MDT 2001

Anger mounts,
Ecevit won't quit

Disgruntled people flood the streets of cities across the country, block
highways in Istanbul and Ankara to slam the government


Ankara- Turkish Daily News
April 7, 2001

Anti-government demonstrations continued to build up and spread on Friday
throughout the country in protest of the failure of Prime Minister Bulent
Ecevit's three-way Nationalist Motherleft coalition, but the prime minister
vowed the government would not quit.

The government has faced a rising chorus of calls to resign this week, over
a crisis which has resulted in the value of the lira depreciating almost 75
percent in 45 days and has depressed wage earners' living standards.
However, Ecevit said the government could weather the storm.

"Right now there's no possibility of another government. We are committed to
a responsible evaluation of our position," he told reporters in Ankara after
meeting World Bank vice president for Europe and Central Asia Johannes Linn.

Ecevit said those who call on the government to resign must show an
alternative and claimed that there was no alternative to his government in

"Tradesmen definitely have some problems. After the program is prepared,
after next week, we'll be looking at the question of domestic resources in
particular," Ecevit said.

"Once the problem of domestic resources is solved, we'll be able to focus
more effectively on the problems of tradesmen and craftsmen, workers and
public employees," the prime minister said.

Prayers for 'peace and order'
Praying for rain at mosques is a customary practice in years of drought but
this week the traditional Friday sermons were mostly devoted to an appeal
for social calm, peace and order.

The prayers reflected the worries of the administration that spontaneous
demonstrations started by a lone disgruntled florist who hurled a cash
register at Prime Minister Ecevit and quickly spread throughout the country
but so far remained nonviolent may soon be replaced with urban violence.

Police, labor unions, Union of Associations of Tradesmen and Artizans and
the Turkish Union of Chambers, the largest businessmen gathering in the
country, have all expressed worries that provocateur extremist elements may
infiltrate the protesting groups.

Aygun booed
Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) Chairman Sinan Aygun, who played an
instrumental role in dispersing demonstrating tradesmen in Ankara on
Wednesday with a pledge that he would take a group of tradesmen for a
meeting with Ecevit, was at center stage on Friday dispersing a
demonstration by Siteler tradesmen. This time however, the crowd preferred
to boo Aygun rather than listening to him, as the ATO chief could not on
Wednesday arrange the meeting with Ecevit and the group of tradesmen who
went to the Prime Ministry managed to meet only with Deputy Prime Minister
Husamettin Ozkan.

The protestors hurled shoes and lighters at Aygun.

The demonstration yesterday by Siteler tradesmen closed the Ankara-Samsun
Highway to traffic for several hours as police, seeing that the number of
angry tradesmen exceeded several thousand, did not try to disperse the
demonstration until reinforcements came.

In Istanbul, hundreds of demonstrators blocked the E-5 Highway between
Istanbul and Ankara for some time, shouting "The government must resign!"
and waved placards reading "You're sucking our blood" and "You're a disgrace
to the country."

Besides Istanbul and Ankara, disgruntled tradesmen took to the street their
anger with the government almost throughout the country from Sanliurfa,
Nevsehir, Derince, Bingol, Adana, Erzurum, Eskisehir, Izmir to
Kahramanmaras. The most interesting demonstrations of the day was one staged
by civil servants in Istanbul and one staged by Kahramanmaras tradesmen.

While civil servants in Istanbul staged a mock wedding ceremony of a
"Turkey" bride with an "International Monetary Fund (IMF)" bridegroom and a
protesting "Turkish public", tradesmen in Kahramanmaras travelled to the
city graveyard onboard minibuses to complain to the dead about the
mismanagement of the Turkish economy by the coalition government.

"We have lost hope in those who are alive. Even the dead must have heard our
cries, but deaf ears in Ankara can't hear our calls and leave their posts,"
read a placard.

At Derince, a town hard hit by the killer quake two years ago, protesting
tradesmen carried placards stating "The quake could not ruin us, the
government has done it."

Scores of demonstrators were briefly detained by police in Istanbul and
Ankara but almost all demonstrations ended peacefully without police

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