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May Day (May 1) in Istanbul

May Day (May 1), the traditional workers’ holiday commemorated in many countries, can be significant in Turkey, and may affect your visit.

Leftist and labor movement organizations look upon May Day as a special symbol of their work and their goals. Traditionally, they rally in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on May Day for speeches, songs, cheers and fellowship.

In some past rallies, there has been trouble: clashes among people in the square (possibly including provocateurs), clashes with police, repressive measures such as use of water cannon, tear gas and armored vehicles.

The national government has forbidden any assembly in Taksim Square on May 1st, and has organized 15,000 police officers, 50 water-cannon trucks, hundreds of steel barriers, many new surveillance cameras, etc. to deter those who would force the issue.

Many roads will be barricaded and public transport to and through the area will probably be stopped.

Opposition political forces, labor and union groups have not acquiesced to these strictures, so incidents are possible.

Whether there are disturbances or not, if your hotel or apartment is anywhere near Taksim Square, you may have trouble accessing it on May 1st, and perhaps even on the evening of April 30th. Contact your hotel or apartment for advice!

I strongly advise visitors to avoid Taksim Square and indeed much of Beyoğlu on April 30th and May 1st. If you see or hear of any large gatherings or demonstrations, go to some other part of the city and avoid contact. You don’t want to be thought guilty by association.

—by Tom Brosnahan


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