Primary school teacher lost everything but refuses to give up
Turkish teacher union is fighting for democratic rights
Derya Yulcu had been working for 20 years as a primary school teacher when she suddenly was dismissed from her work without knowing why. She suspects it was because of her union involvement and her fight for women's rights.
What happened to you when you lost your employment?
At the end of the spring semester a few years ago, I was told that I would immediately be transferred to a school in another city 100 km away. I wasn't even allowed to say goodbye to my students or give them their grades even though there were only two days left in the school year. It made me very sad. I was going to start at the new school after the summer break but I was dismissed during the summer.
How did you find out you were dismissed?
I heard that thousands of people had been dismissed from their jobs and that there were lists of all the names on the internet. That's where I found my name. There were a lot of teachers among the dismissed, and we came from schools all over the country. Several teachers from my old school were dismissed and even the principal.
Could you protest against the dismissal?
Some colleagues and I arranged an outdoor press conference to protest, but then we were arrested and accused of breaking the rules on organising public meetings. The legal process against us is still ongoing.
Why do you think you were dismissed?
I am convinced that this is because I am a member of the union for education workers, Egitim-sen, because we are openly in opposition to the government. We are fighting for free education and the right of all children to education, for trade union rights, women's rights and a free and democratic society.
What were the consequences for you?
In addition to losing my job and my income, I was deprived of my right to work. I can't get a job anywhere. I also lost my health insurance and I have received a travel ban that prevents me from leaving the country. They took my passport, too. I am accused by the government of association with a terrorist organization, but I am just an active member of the union. This makes me very sad. I had a tough childhood and have fought hard to become a teacher. I loved my job, but now all has been taken away from me.
” I am convinced that I was dismissed because I am a member of the union for education workers as we are openly in opposition to the government. We are fighting for free education and the right of all children to education, for trade union rights, women's rights and a free and democratic society..”
What opportunities do you have to get your job back?
It looks dark, but I am fighting the anti-democratic decisions of my dismissal and I fight to get my employment back. We trade unionists are under severe pressure. Some of us have been arrested because we express our dissatisfaction and express our opinions. But we are not giving up the fight for our rights. We must continue to fight that.
What are your hopes for the future?
This is a difficult situation for me as a socialist feminist woman in the Middle East. But within my union we fight hard for a democratic and free country. We are here and we are not going anywhere. And we are not giving up the fight for our rights. Within the organization, we have strong solidarity and work together to create a society of diversity. We work for a world where every single person lives in freedom and equality.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION COOPERATION IMPORTANT
Trade unions in the education sector particularly vulnerable
Trade unionists in the field of education around the world are subjected to violence, arrests, torture and even murder. In non-democratic countries, governments often want total control over the education system and see free trade unions in the education sector as a threat. This is stated by the World Teachers' Association Education International (EI), a global association of teachers' unions from all over the world.
International cooperation important
The National Union of Teachers in Sweden believes that international solidarity between teachers is important.
"We must never let teachers be silenced. On the day we fall silent, the foundations of democracy are also weakened. In Sweden and around the world”, says Åsa Fahlén, President of The National Union of Teachers in Sweden.
The worst countries in the world for workers
The Global Rights Index report measures how fundamental human rights at work are respected in the world.
Turkey is reported to be one of the world's 10 worst countries for workers.
Source: International Trade Union Commitee Global Rights Index 2020