The police attacked a group of thermal power plant workers with pepper spray on Friday after they chained themselves to the front gate of the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry in Ankara in protest of the privatization of the power plants where they work. Fifteen workers were later taken into custody.
The government had instructed the Privatization Administration (ÖİB) to privatize the Yatağan, Yeniköy and Kemerköy thermal power plants in the Aegean city of Muğla. IC İçtaş, whose owner has close ties with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), won the privatization tender for the Yeniköy and Kemerköy thermal power plants on April 18 with a $2.671 billion bid. The ÖİB later announced on May 6 that six firms, including IC İçtaş and Limak, which is also owned by a pro-government businessman, had applied to bid in a tender for the Yatağan thermal power plant.
A group of some 50 workers carrying banners stating “Yatağan will not be another Soma” and “No to privatization, sub-contracting and workplace murders” and chanting the slogan “Those responsible for Soma will be called to account” arrived at the front gate of the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry at noon on Friday. Six of them chained themselves to the gate.
Speaking to reporters, Süleyman Girgin, the head of the Yatağan branch of the Miners’ Union (Maden-İş), said they had initially planned a demonstration in front of the Labor and Social Security Ministry, which is a few hundred meters away, but changed the location due to the “risk of police attack and detention.”
“The police may come and kill us here. Workers have already been killed in Afşin, Elbistan, Zonguldak and recently in Soma. Privatization and sub-contracting have brought nothing but death. We have clearly seen this in Soma. We will be killed after our workplaces are privatized. Then kill us now. We will resist against privatization, sub-contracting and workplace murders,” Girgin said.
After Girgin’s statement, the police arrived at the scene and warned the workers to disperse. When they refused, police officers used pepper spray to break up the crowd. Scuffles erupted when some police officers cut the chains around workers who had chained themselves to the front gate of the ministry with iron cutters. “Kill us,” shouted a worker while another one yelled: “See what fascism of the AKP is doing.”
After the police took 15 workers into custody, the remaining protesters marched through Kızılay Square carrying banners. However, the police did not allow them to carry banners. The protesters proceeded after dropping the banners and continued without them.
The workers of the power plants have been carrying out demonstrations for nearly eight months in opposition of the privatization of the power plants. A group of workers started a sit-in protest on April 10 in Kurtuluş park in front of the ÖİB building in Ankara, announcing that they had stopped working at the plant and that it would cease production. The police have repeatedly attacked workers when they approach the ÖİB building and more than a hundred police officers are stationed outside the building, which is surrounded by steel barriers.
İbrahim Çeçen, the owner of IC İçtaş, and Nihat Özdemir, the owner of Limak, both of whom have close ties to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, had testified to an İstanbul court in February as part of a corruption investigation that became public on Dec. 25, 2013.