The Maritime Union of Australia kicked off its annual National Council by holding a minute’s silence yesterday, remembering the victims of the Ankara peace rally bombing.
MUA National Campaigns and Project Coordinator Saadet Ozdemir was present when the attack, which has killed more than 100 people and injured hundreds more, occurred.
When Saadet spoke to the MUA about her experience, she was clearly still very shook up by what she had witnessed.
“I’ll never not see what I saw,” she said.
Saadet was on one of five busloads of mainly union activists from white-collar unions who had trekked from Istanbul the night before. She had gone to undertake some errands and was in a taxi returning to her friends at the rally when the first bomb went off.
She jumped out of the taxi and made her way towards where the disaster was unfolding and was on the phone to one of her friends when she lost contact and the second bomb was detonated.
“It was worse than anything I have seen on film. It was raining body parts. It was surreal,” she said.
“People were running and screaming, they were scared. There was this one women, who I won’t ever forget, she had lost her friend, that will stay with me forever."
In the aftermath, she tried to find survivors from her group and made her way to hospitals to see how she could help out.
On reflection she said the death and injury toll would have been a lot higher had the rally been in full swing, referring to the fact the bombs went off prior to the rally actually starting.
However, she said the majority of the victims were young people and that many unions had lost their key people.
Although it wasn’t clear at this point, she said, who was responsible but that the general sentiment from those in attendance was one of suspicion of the Turkish Government.
Not one to be put-off by the event, Saadet said she and others were resolute.
“The people are more determined than ever and the unions are more determined than ever.”
MUA National Secretary and International Transport Workers’ Federation President Paddy Crumlin said the shameless attacks could not be forgiven.
“They must be fully, effectively – and transparently – investigated. That process must be open to international observers,” Crumlin said.
“We don’t yet know who was responsible for this outrage. We do know how grievously they have damaged the causes of peace and democracy. We also know that even as the innocent, some of them our friends, are dying or in hospital, the values they were defending on Saturday will be upheld and promoted and carried on in their name by trade unionists and people of good will worldwide.
“It is in that spirit that trade unions in Turkey are declaring three days of mourning and a two-day strike in protest at this appalling attack. We fully support them.”
ITF General Secretary Steve Cotton also commented on the event via a statement.
“A nation’s heart is breaking today. These attacks targeted what is best about Turkey, and some of its most idealistic and motivated people. We in the international union movement share that grief.
“Among the main organisers of this peaceful demonstration were trade unions affiliated to the ITF. Among the dead are good friends of ours such as Ali Kitapci of the Birlesik Tasimacilik Çalisanlari Sendikasi (BTS) union. I can personally attest to the fact that for years Ali upheld workers’ rights in Turkey and the duty of unions to protect them. It is typical that he should have been attending an event designed to defend peace and democracy. The loss of such a man, and the loss of all those killed on Saturday, is immeasurable.”
The ITF has eight trade union affiliates in Turkey. They are: Birlesik Tasimacilik Çalisanlari Sendikasi (BTS) (United Transport Workers' Union); Deniz Çalisanlari Dayanisma Dernegi (DAD-DER) Marine Employees’ Solidarity Association (MESA); National Port and Land Stevedores Union of Turkey (LIMAN-IS); Railway Workers' Trade Union of Turkey (DEMIRYOL-IS); Trade Union of Revolutionary Land Transportation Workers of Turkey (Nakliyat Is); Turkish Civil Aviation Union Hava-İş; Tüm Taşıma İşçileri Sendikası (All Transport Workers' Union of Turkey); and Türkiye Denizciler Sendikasi (Seafarers' Union of Turkey)