Article written by Ozlem Atik, London Gezi
A group of people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds and political views came together during the Gezi -Taksim resistance. They did not and do not represent a political party or any other organization. In support of the Gezi movement they organised flashmobs, protests, workshops, and started to interact with other international solidarity groups. As part of this we came across Stop the Arms Fair. At the first Stop the Arms Fair meeting we attended, we realised we have many reasons in common to protest the arms fair.
As a group we are against any form of violence.
The recent police violence in Turkey has been extreme. Turkish government, instead of warning the police, supported this violence. The peaceful protest turned into a bloody battle in the centre of Istanbul. The tear gas canisters were targeted at people’s heads and eyes. 13 people lost their eyes. 5 young people (the age average is 17) have been killed by the police violence and over 8,000 of people were injured. This wasn’t the first time we have seen police brutality in Turkey. More recently there has been a defacto war between Turkish state and PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) which lasted for 30 years, until the ceasefire on 21 March 2013. Kurdish people in the east of Turkey had been exposed to this violence during those years.
Dramatically after Gezi protest, Turkish people developed empathy, especially as they experienced how media did not cover the reality of the protests truthfully (instead pretending that nothing was happening, by showing documentaries about penguins – making this animal a symbol of the protests). So, this was not the first time the Turkish Government used violence and showed brutality to the people but it was the first time the police units used violence to people who are defending a public park in the centre of Istanbul. After the protests, some parts of the public lost their belief in the government.
We find the mission of Stop the Arms Fair is very meaningful and significant. We feel we must support it. At the heart of all these protests, we all are against violence and the source of violence is linked to arms trade.
According to the SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) research for 2012, Turkey is the 4th largest importer of arms in the world. Other sources claim that in 2016 Turkey’s arms trade exports will reach $2 billion. On the other hand, government is cutting from the education, health and other social services. As socially responsible individuals, we are aware of these situations and call everyone to raise their voice and protest against the arms trade in all over the world.
Take action against the international arms trade and stand in solidarity with Turkish people on the 8th September with Stop the Arms Fair.