Middle East: Police Meet Workers on May 1

May Day is the day workers around the world rally for better working conditions and higher wages. In the Middle East, bloggers mark the day with posts and photographs reporting what happened, what the day means for them, and why it is a reason for celebration.


Our first stop in in Turkey, where Erkan Saka says Labour Day celebrations were met with excessive force by police. Posting pictures of demonstrators being chased by police, he notes:

Like last year, there was an unproportional use of police power.

He further adds:

[M]ainstream Turkish press has become pro-labor today in order to develop another strike at the government. However, one point is missed: Unions knew that there would be violent scenes and instead of designated areas for demonstrations, they declared days before to send their workers to areas that police would react….


Naseem Tarawnah, from Jordan, too wasn't too optimistic about the day and writes:

I always found labor day in Jordan to be a bit ironic. What’s it really about? A day off? From what? For whom? According to unofficial numbers, unemployment in the country is as high as 30%, and the remaining people who are employed don’t make over 200JD’s (US$280) a month.


In Iran, Tabuot [Fa] says that workers have been under a lot of pressure in recent years and several magazines/sites covering workers’ news have been filtered and banned in the last few months. According to the blogger, reliable sources report that there are more than 100,000 child workers in Iran, with many of them who could be facing serious health problems. Tabout adds that several workers have been arrested by security forces in the last year. The blogger does not say whether they faced any charges or not.


From Lebanon, Rami Zurayk analyses news reports on May Day. He writes:

In the economy page, Rasha Abu Zeki nails it again: a great report on the people who actually earn the minimum wage: $200. This is an issue of contention because the hawks in the successive Lebanese governments have always denied the fact that there are people who earn minimum wage in Lebanon, and have hidden behind this argument to refuse to raise the wages. Rasha interviews 3 people from different ages and family conditions, and the stories they tell are dramatic. The main point is: to live in Lebanon, families need closer to $800 a month, so increasing the minimum wage to $260 isn't going to do much. People are supported by the remittances of relatives working abroad. Note that the $60 increase has not been approved by the government in spite of the increase in cost of living.

Still in Lebanon, A Diamond in Sunlight, turns her attention to housemaids. Being a holiday, she spent the day with her in-laws, where she notes:

For the maids of Lebanon, Labor Day probably merely means more family members around to cook for and clean up after.

Razan, meanwhile, was stuck at work on Labour Day. But she makes a point of posting pictures of May Day celebrations from Farah Kubaissi's Flickr account, which can be here here.

Writing on her blog, Farah says:

13 thousands people responded to the call of the LCP (Lebanese Communist Party) and the Leftist Gathering and the National Syndicates Union for a popular demonstration on May 1 in Lebanon.U could c a very big red wave flowing the streets of the city.
let every day, May 1…

Arab Democracy provides more information about the labour struggle in Lebanon.


Palestinian Al Falasteenyia, who lives in the US, caught some action from the May Day rally and shares an encounter she experienced here:

I've been so busy with the situation in Palestine lately i almost forgot- but didnt. got off work today and joined the protest for a bit before heading off to class. as i waited to cross the street to join the crowd, a white man turned to me and said: i'm so not in the mood for this.
not in the mood for worker's rights? not in the mood for rights of immigrants? not in the mood to stand in solidarity with other human beings? not in the mood to take a stand and call for justice?
excuse me, mr. america, when will you be in the mood? let me know, so i can write it down in my calendar and mark it down as:

Back in Palestine, Palestine Free Voice provides pictures and an article on a May Day rally in Gaza.


Our last stop is in Jordan again, where Ola Eliwat marks the day with a positive note. She writes:

[W]hether you were the CEO of a multi-national company or just selling newspapers at the traffic lights, for each and everyone of you making this world unstoppingly viable: It’s labour day, and you’ve earned it.

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