The Teachers’ Union (Egitim Sen), affiliated to the Confederation of Public Sector Unions (KESK) and established in 1995 is confronted with the challenge of being closed down by the decision taken by the Supreme Court. Egitim Sen, with its 200.000 members, is the largest union in Turkey. The lawsuit against Egitim Sen aiming to close down the union is due to the fact that Egitim Sen has been defending for all individuals the right to education in their mother tongue as well as the right to develop their cultures in accordance with their basic human rights and freedoms.
This development is very meaningful especially while the Turkish government has been propagandising the so-called democratisation process to achieve Turkey’s accession to the European Union. It is a well-known fact that Turkey is a multilingual and multicultural country and the prime responsibility of a government is not to create difficulties for the unions defending the secular, scientific, democratic education demands of its citizens but to protect the fundamental human rights of their citizens, to respect international law and to remove the obstacles on the road to democratisation.
Egitim Sen defends the right to education in the mother tongue owing to the fact that it believes it is a basic human right. The union believes that this right is one of the basic principles of a democratic and scientific education. It is also important to note that this challenge seems to be politically motivated rather than due to legal regulations. Since the day it has been established, Egitim Sen has always been sensitive about the anti-democratic treatments across the country and has opposed all attempts aiming at commercializing education and oppressing democratic education initiatives.
Here, you will find a summary of the court case procedures that have taken place until now :
10th June 2004 : Egitim Sen was sued by the Attorney General of Ankara, as it was accused of breaching the Turkish Constitution because of an article in its Statutes that supports the right to education in the mother tongue (whereas the Turkish Constitution states that education should be provided in the official language).
15th September 2004 : the Ankara Second Labour Court ruled in favor of EI affiliate, Egitim Sen, acquitting the Teachers’ Union of all charges. However, the Attorney General of Ankara asked for a revocation of the case and it was brought before the Supreme Court.
In November 2004, the Supreme Court rejected the ruling of the Ankara Second Labour Court and the case went back to the Ankara Second Labour Court for a second ruling.
21st February 2005 : the Ankara Second Labour Court confirmed its first ruling. The Attorney General of Ankara decided to bring the case before the Supreme Court for a final ruling.
25th May 2005 : The Supreme Court hearing in Ankara in order to finalise the decision concerning the Egitim Sen Court Case was held and the Court decided to invoke the decision made by the local labor court which was in favor of Egitim Sen. That is to say, the Supreme Court decision can be seen as a signal of closing down the union and of banning its activities. The Supreme Court has not issued its decision in a written version document and it is supposed to be issued in the forthcoming days. For the time being, it is possible to say that according to the Supreme Court, the regulation of Egitim Sen is in breach of the Turkish Constitution Article 42 which states that “No one shall be deprived of the right of learning and education” but restricts that right by continuing with the following statement of ; “No language other than Turkish shall be taught as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institutions of training or education”. The Supreme Court is the highest level of the Turkish judicial system and there is no possibility for any further appeal.
27th May, 2005 : Secretary Generals of both the Education International and ICFTU sent a letter to Mr. Juan Somavia, Director General of ILO and requested urgent ILO intervention by stating that the decision made by the Supreme Court stands in breach of ILO Conventions 87 and 98, which Turkey had already ratified.
3rd June, 2005 : Egitim Sen made its application to the European Human Rights Court with the urgent precautionary action request.
Please note that Egitim Sen was prosecuted for the same reasons in 1998 and 2002 and on both occasions the union was found not guilty.
Egitim Sen requests from all partners solidarity. Please send your protest letters to the President of Turkey, Prime Minister and to the Ministry of Justice. Here you will find the fax numbers : President of Turkey Mr. Ahmet Necdet Sezer : +90 312 4271330 Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan : +90 312 4170476 Minister of Justice Mr. Cemil Cicek : +90 312 4177113