Visitor to the Greenpeace Peace Embassy at a US nuclear weapons base in Turkey.
This is the Incirlik NATO Air Base in South-Eastern Turkey near
theborders of Syria and Iraq. Greenpeace is here because the
Turkishpeople, including the people of Incirlik, have
never been informed norconsulted about Incirlik’s deadly secret.
Incirlik is a gritty, hardy small town ten kilometres from Adana
- acity of nearly two million. In recognition of its origins, Incirlikmeans “fig orchard”. These days, there’s more concrete than figs.
Fifty metres from our door is the first of several formidable doublerazor wire fences
. Beyond is another world of neat roads, suburbangardens and
Disney-like buildings. I didn't expect that the nuclearfrontier for
the Middle-East would look quite this sanitized and out
I also did not expect that representatives of the world's major
nationswould be so close to total failure to maintain the only
agreement andhope we have to limit and reduce the world's deadly
nuclear stockpiles.In Incirlik, news of stalemates and
disagreements at the 2005Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty meeting
in New York is grave newsindeed. Our Embassy is within stone’s throw of a destructive power thatcould obliterate entire nations
not only robbing them of life but alsopoisoning any future on
their lands. To me, this is the closest realequivalent to the
infamous "Death Star" of Star Wars fame.
Yesterday, I joined the exceptional team that made the
Embassypossible. They are Greenpeace staff and activists from
Incirlik, Adana,Istanbul, Lebanon and Holland. With guidance and
support from Malta,Amsterdam and even Canada, they have overcome obstacle after obstaclein order to take Greenpeace’s Nuclear Disarmament Campaign to one ofits key frontiers.
The Incirlik base and township is tightly controlled by the
military.The livelihoods of many locals heavily depend on the
military base andsome are openly antagonistic to any sign of
opposition. Just finding anowner willing to rent their place to
Greenpeace, let alone getting thepermission to operate required
exceptional effort and local support.Their efforts and persistence
has meant that we are the firstanti-nuclear organisation to successfully establish and maintain apresence in Incirlik.
The team, led by campaigner Aslihan Tumer, launched the Peace
Embassyon the 16th of May. Before the media had arrived, the local militarypolice turned up in full riot-gear and blocked all access points to thesite.
Journalists who had travelled to Incirlik to cover the event
weredelayed as the team negotiated with the military commander to
allow thelaunch to proceed. Gerd Leipold, the Executive Director of
GreenpeaceInternational, addressed the packed press conference by
phone,highlighting the world's new nuclear perils and the great
need tocounter these threats.
The next morning, there was strong coverage in all the major
newsoutlets, including many headlining the presence of 90 nuclear
missilesin Incirlik. Within 24 hours, the team had already succeeded in raisingpublic awareness and debate.
This morning, I joined Aslihan on a live regional news show.
Eventhough Aslihan had already appeared on many news shows, our
planned tenminutes extended to thirty. The show's host made it
clear that there is a thirst for more information and discussion about the presence ofthe missiles and their risks
. Our host encouraged and supported ourcampaign. This was a
response that was repeated when I joined Aslihanand the team to
meet with the Bus Driver's Association in Incirlik anda Worker's
Union in Adana. We later talked with shop-keepers, students,market
stall holders, neighbours, US military personnel and their wivesand
a whole array of local supporters. Motivated to learn more and
havetheir voices heard, people dropped into the centre for long
discussionsover cups of tea. Others looked at our display of panels
of the horrorsof the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
This was just in two days. Since the launch, the team's public
outreachactivities established excellent relations with the local
community.They forged links with local organisations and talked to hundreds ofpeople
both on the streets and in Adana City. The
walking-talking'missiles for peace' helped break the ice and
started many discussions.
Having opened the Peace Embassy, keeping it open turned out to
be quiteanother challenge. The military police and a few local
shopkeepersrepeatedly warn the team that there are narrow-minded
and armed peoplehere who are very unhappy with the Peace
Embassy. The message is thatthings could get out of hand and it would be better for us to pack upand leave.
Well, the team disagreed and stayed.
They stood up for the right oflocal people to know and to
discuss the presence of the missiles. Manylocals from Incirlik and
Adana agreed. They donated their time, theirhospitality - even
their furniture. Many were grateful that the tabooon discussing
nuclear missiles was broken and that they had a chance tohave their
Indeed, as I joined some of the team to walk around Incirlik
earlierthis afternoon, I noticed that hidden between the houses you
couldstill see the occasional grand fig tree. Kids rushed up and
hugged us.I sensed that the seeds for a safer life are already here.
Send a message to the Prime Minister
72% of the Turkish public wants Turkey to be nuclear-free. Ask the Prime Minister to make it so.
Give peace a chance
Help us keep the Peace Embassy going and our activists around the world working for an end to the nuclear threat.