Independent Mineworkers Union (Bağımsız Maden-İş Sendikası) Expert Union Organizer Kamil Kartal has served for the trade union movement all his life. He was sued and taken into custody a number of times. The decision taken by the Akhisar Criminal Court of First Instance to sentence Kartal to 33 months in prison is currently pending at the Court of Cassation.
Kamil Kartal is a worker and a member of the trade union movement born in 1956 in Istanbul – but he identifies as from Şavşat (Artvin). His father is an old-time tram driver for IETT (Istanbul Electric Tramway and Tunnel Enterprises) and one of the founding members of TUMTIS (All Transport Workers’ Union). Kartal dropped out of high school and started working at the age of 16. He mainly worked in the energy industry, in addition to IETT, metal, mining, and press. He has been active in the trade union movement since he was 18 years old and served as a representative of different confederations and workplaces at the union, alongside serving as an executive and an expert on union organizing.
He led most of his union activities under DISK (Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions) until it was shut down with the coup d’etat on September 12, 1980. He was a member of Türk-İş (Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions) until 1992 when he started to work towards remobilizing DISK. He was in charge of organizing Yeraltı-Maden İş (Underground Mining Workers Union). While he was working at the printing department of Cumhuriyet Daily, he served as the secretary general and president of Basın-İş (Media and Printing Workers Union). He undertook organizing efforts for Devrimci Sağlık-İş (Revolutionary Health Workers Union). He supported the establishment of Bağımsız Enerji-Sen (Independent Energy Workers Union). He served as the president of Enerji İşçileri Sendikası (Energy Workers Union), organized under DISK, from 2010 to 2013.
Kamil Kartal has been in Soma since May 13, 2014 – the day Soma Mine Disaster took place. He has been following up on lawsuits with the families of mineworkers who have lost their lives and continues to take part in the struggle for workers’ rights. He took on an active role in founding the Independent Mineworkers Union (Bağımsız Maden-İş Sendikası) in 2018. He is currently serving as an expert on organizing and training in the same union.
Kartal had been taken into custody countless times for his union activities, and a number of lawsuits were brought against him. All these lawsuits are from 1980 onwards. He was tried along 700 other defendants under the IETT Devrimci Yol case following the September 12 coup. From 1980 to 1983, he had been detained up to more than 80 days. During an Enerji-Sen (Electricity, Gas, Water and Hydrodam Workers Union) protest in 2011, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for shutting down the traffic on Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul. The sentences he received for occupying Adana TEDAS (Turkish Electricity Distribution Corporation) and Taksim BEDAS (Boğaziçi Electricity Distribution Corporation) buildings were suspended.
Akhisar Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Kartal to 33 months in prison for degrading Akhisar Chief of Police. The decision is currently reviewed at the Court of Cassation. The case of murdered mineworkers in Soma brought union representatives, including Kartal, and police forces to the court. Kartal acquitted from another lawsuit launched about the same incident accusing him of “provoking the public to hatred and hostility”.
Public learned about Kamil Kartal when a group of mineworkers from Soma, who had been laid off without compensation and unpaid receivables, started marching to Ankara. When the mineworkers march was blocked by the gendarmerie, Kartal stood up against them, saying “Is that so regiment commander?” Following this incident, Kamil Kartal went on to support the metal workers who wanted to march from Gebze (Kocaeli) to Ankara demanding their union rights be recognized. Kartal was taken into custody, along with Başaran Aksu, an expert union organizer for the Independent Mineworkers Union. They were both released the same day.