The NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in the UK, has today presented its International Solidarity Award to Egitim Sen, the Turkish teachers’ trade union, at its Annual Conference in Birmingham.

The award was presented to Egitim Sen in recognition of its determination to continue to fight for trade union and human rights, oppose all forms of religious extremism and its humanitarian work to support refugees, including assisting Syrian and Iraqi children, young people and families in Turkish refugee camps.

In October 2015 Egitim Sen co-organised a peaceful demonstration in Ankara calling for an end to Isis and appealing for justice, democracy and quality public education. The demonstration also called on the Turkish state to provide proper help for refugees from Syria and Iraq fleeing Isis.

The demonstration was attacked by twin suicide bombers and over 20 members of Egitim Sen and the Turkish trade union confederation KESK were killed. Many more were seriously injured.

Egitim Sen has also been vocal against the privatisation of education, and has campaigned for quality public education for all including for Kurdish minorities.

As a consequence of its work to promote public education, key leaders and activists of Egitim Sen have faced harsh government harassment, arrest and detention, including torture. General Secretary Sakine Yilmaz, together with numerous other leaders of Egitim Sen, has spent months imprisoned on trumped up charges.

Ms Yilmaz is banned from travelling outside Turkey.

Egitim Sen is continuing to provide education to refugee and displaced children in refugee camps in Diyarbakir, Ergani, Fidanlik and Siirt, with financial assistance from the NASUWT.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, said:

“Egitim Sen is playing a vital role in providing humanitarian support to the hundreds of thousands of refugee children and families who have been forced to flee Iraq and Syria.

“In the most hostile of circumstances, Egitim Sen is continuing to bravely challenge violence, extremism, bigotry and hatred.

“Over many years, Egitim Sen has been attacked by the Turkish authorities, and its leaders have been subjected to violence, torture and repression. These are attacks on fundamental freedoms including democracy and freedom of association.

“Despite all of these assaults, Egitim Sen is continuing its work to defend human and trade union rights and promote equal access to public education for all children and young people in Turkey, including the Kurdish minorities who continue to suffer hardship, discrimination and exclusion as a consequence of the policies of the Turkish government.

“I am proud that the NASUWT has been able to play a part in offering solidarity and support to Egitim Sen in its work for freedom, social justice and human rights.”

Kamuran Karaca, President of Egitim Sen said:

“Egitim Sen has been working hard for the rights of all children, including refugee and displaced children.

“We are very happy to have received fantastic support for the NASUWT and I want to use this opportunity to thank them again for this award which we are very honoured to receive.

“We will fight for education for all at the global level and a secular and free education in our mother tongue in our country.

“We won’t give up this struggle despite the pressures placed on us. At this conference our friendship and solidarity with the NASUWT has become stronger and this award will strengthen our ambition to fight more for human rights and solidarity in our country.”

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