The last tree or the final straw? (Update from Turkey)
by Kumi Naidoo
Many other issues and concerns over Prime Minister Erdogans constant erosion of civil liberties and environmental protections are being masked by the 'fog of war', the vast clouds of tear-gas wafting across Taksim. Freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly are sacred principles, without which democracy cannot prevail. These principles must be respected by the Turkish authorities. The violence against protestors must stop! Regular updates from my colleagues in our Greenpeace office in Istanbul are a cause of great concern and of pride. Our staff, supporters and volunteers stand in solidarity with those who demand the protection of the park. They stand in solidarity with those demanding an end to the police brutality and all violence. Our office is located on Istiklal Street, the main avenue leading to Taksim square. Only 1 km from it. The protests have spread along the street and police officers have been confronting demonstrators directly under the office, using tear gas and water cannons. Access to the office has been impossible at times and the air is acid. Our office has remained opened throughout the night and will remain open as long as is needed. We are taking in injured and exhausted protestors. We are offering respite from the storm, first aid to the injured. A number of doctors and medics have joined us to provide triage for those in need. The atmosphere is tense but our activists are resolute in their determination.I am alarmed by the inability of the media channels in Turkey to fully cover what is happening for years they have been subject to government oppression and censorship. But across social media, citizen to citizen, peer to peer, the news is being heard and seen. The authorities are being watched and condemned. Photos, videos and tweets have been flooding the net. Hundreds of offices and business places in Istanbul have been opening their wifi networks for public access making a mockery of the notion that news can be controlled to make up for the phone data network being shut down trying to prevent people from reporting what they are seeing. Our teams in Turkey are regularly updating our Facebook and Twitter accounts. We hope all of our staff, supporters and volunteers stay safe but we also support the risk they are taking! In these trying times, we embrace our core values of peace and non-violence, of bearing witness and taking action. To Prime Minister Erdogan I say stop the violence, end the brutality and open up the media to allow a full debate of the issues. The world is watching. We have heard the prime minister rightfully call for peace elsewhere in the Middle East. He must now walk that talk at home. We appeal to him not to repeat the tear-gassing and brutality of the last days, we ask for him to stay the rubber bullets and batons. Violence serves no ones interest. Our thoughts, our hearts and our solidarity are with the people of Istanbul and the people of Turkey. Please, everyone pay attention, seek out news of what is happening and add your voice to the clarion call for the violence to stop, for the park to remain and for the right to peaceful protest to be upheld.