100 Turkish teachers were arrested on Saturday when their peaceful demonstration in the capital, Ankara, was attaked by riot police. The teachers were protesting against plans by President Tayyip Erdogan to make Ottaman Turkish compulsory in all high schools, in order ostensibly to connect children with their cultural roots. However the teachers say this is just one more step by the government to destroy secular education in schools.

The protest which took place in the Central Square of Ankara, was attacked without warning by riot police using teargas and water cannon. The protesters, who were members of the education union Egitim Sen, carried banners saying 'Respect Secular Education and Labour'. The leader of the Antalya branch of the union, who was one of those detained, : 'We stood up for the rights of our teachers and civil servants, but we were the victims of a police attack without any warning.They soaked down the group, which also included children and the elderly.'  

Turkish teachers and their unions have been by the Erdogan government as they continue not only to stand up for secular education, which has a long tradition in the country, but also for the rights of the Kurdish people to be educated in their own language. Their leaders are frequently arrested and detained, their union periodically deligitimised and their peaceful protests attacked by police as they were at the weekend. To add to all that their salaries are grossly insufficient and thousands of them are without jobs despite a severe shortage of teachers in schools. Recently, thousands of school principals and other teachers were sacked so that they could be replaced by supporters of the ruling party. Only last month teachers were attacked by police as they celebrated their teachers' day.

Despite Erdogan's attempts to suppress them, teachers and their union have been prominent supporters of the struggles for democracy which spread over the country from Gezi square on May 2013 as well as fighting for the rights of other workers in the country.