KESK Union Co-president: All norms should be radically shaken!

The 3rd Symposium against Discrimination brought the Confederation of Public Workers’ Union (KESK), Education and Science Workers’ Union (Egitim-Sen) and Cyprus Turkish Teachers’ Union (KTOS) together.

Source: Hakan Ö., “KESK Union Co-president: All norms should be radically shaken!”,, 17 December 2014,

Kaos GL Association’s Symposium Against Discrimination took place last weekend in Ankara. Held at Tum Bel-Sen (Trade Union for All Workers of Municipalities and Local Administration Services) Conference Hall, the symposium spread the message that “LGBTI rights are trade union rights”.

The session on union experiences in Turkey and Northern Cyprus was moderated by Turkan Karagoz from Izmir Egitim-Sen Branch No. 2 LGBTI Commission. Below are the highlights from the session’s speakers.

Saziye Kose, Confederation of Public Workers’ Union (KESK) Co-president:

The conflict between labor and capital always consists of exclusion, discrimination, homophobia and marginalization. If we are ever going to win, we need the struggle of labor against capital.

We all know that capitalism depends on a regime of hegemony, deploying essentialist assumptions related to binary genders.

As women and LGBTs, we should open a channel for them to collaborate with us against heterosexist and sexist assumptions that challenge these movements’ inclusiveness, legitimacy, and success.

“We are open to all collective work with LGBTs”  

We need to get rid of patriarchal mechanisms. KESK has started the process but these efforts remain incomplete. In the context of human rights, the struggle against discrimination should be further emphasized.

All norms should be challenged. Unless they are radically questioned, neither the union movement nor the labor movement would be free from patriarchal and heterosexist power relations. We are open to any collective work with LGBTs. We are open to overcoming the obstacles in front of us.

Sakine Esen Yilmaz, General Secretary of Egitim-Sen:

Both KESK and Egitim-Sen includes sexual orientation and gender identity in their legislation. But it is not really possible to say that there has been significant advancements for our LGBTI members.

We have LGBTI commissions that collaborate with Kaos GL, which are targeted by the media.

Besides the external resistance, there is also internal resistance within the union. There is this perception that the self-organization of women would divide the class-based movement and this presumption creates significant resistance. The majority of education workers are women and the education sector has a tendency of being feminized. Formal policies needed for the union to solve these challenges.

Yes, unions have worked on the issue of gender discrimination but we face the problem of the budget. We have finally made a “gender sensitive budget.” No more of the “we don’t have money for that” argument when it comes to women and LGBTI people.

“The networks of male dominance are close to women and LGBTIs” 

There were trainings given to women on gender. We empower ourselves but we realized that the men who work right beside us did not go through any transformation. Therefore, our gender trainings are done in mixed groups now. We trained our own teachers.

Male dominance is reproduced in every single moment and we should always be aware of it. The networks of male dominance are close to both women and LGBTI people.

Semen Saygun, Head of Cyprus Turkish Teachers’ Union (KTOS)

The privatization in Cyprus is being executed through the Turkish government’s policies by way of ignoring the will of the people of Northern Cyprus. As Cypriot Turks, we are against the dominance of Justice and Development Party (AKP) policies over our national sovereignty.

The conservative policies in Northern Cyprus started with the AKP government in Turkey. An association was founded to build mosques and we now have 202 mosques, in contrast to 160 schools. The courses on religion have become compulsory. The number of Quran courses has increased.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Northern Cyprus following a change in Chapter 154 of the criminal code. However, our LGBTI friends did not yet gain visibility.

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