REPORT OF ISTANBUL ANTI-NATO AND ANTI-BUSH SUMMIT SERIES OF EVENTS AND DEMO
The data contained in this Report derive from direct participation and eyewitnessing as well as from the help and support granted by some of the Turkish friends and organizers of Istanbul Social Forum namely, F.Levent Sensever and Erkin Erdogan.
The series of the Peace Summit in Istanbul began on 19th of June and ended on 27th of June with the Grand Demonstration against NATO Summit.
There were Demos scheduled for the 28th and 29th of June as well.
The main organizers of the anti-summit series of events were the following:
- The two major Trade Unions in Turkey, KESK (which is the Confederation of the Trade Unions in the Public Services – teachers, doctors, clerks, etc) and DISK (which is the Confederation of the Trade Unions of workers – steel workers, workers in the heavy industry, workers in the construction and building field, etc.);
- Commitees against Occupation (of Iraq, Palestine, etc);
- The Turkish Communist Party and the other left wing parties;
- BAK, which is the Global Peace and Justice Coalition (they are part of the Istanbul Social Forum);
- The Chambers of Engineers and Doctors of Istanbul (they are also part of and supporters of the Istanbul Social Forum);
- Unity against Bush and NATO (a block of organizations, movements and persons);
- Activists of the Istanbul Social Forum, which is an open process itself according to the Porto Alegre Chart of Principles, not an organization.
2.THE EVENTS PRESENTED CHRONOLOGICALLY
2.1.Thursday, 24th of June 2004
The seminar entitled Media and War was hosted by the Chambers of Engineers in Taksim district.
Some 60 journalists and activists of BAK and ISF (most of them young intellectuals and students) participated in an interesting discussion about the Media and its control and manipulation by the State (political) authorities.
It was revealed that State authorities are acting at their turn mostly as a result of the external pressure coming from the neo-liberal warmonger oligarchic groups that want to impose their globalizing and power-dictating politics.
It turned out that in spite of the grim reality they are facing in case they do not obey the policy of the newspapers they are working with (many are simply sacked in case of disobedience and daring writing the truth), not all journalists in Turkey are corrupt or NATO and Bush champions – on the contrary; and the best proof was that they were taking part in that seminar.
Solutions were attempted to be given to the marginalizing of the Peace and anti-War Movements in Media and to their distorted presentation to the public opinion.
One of the most sensible solution was the one spelling the further development of Peace and anti-War Movements until they reach a mass extension and thus the Media will simply have no other choice than to speak and write about them.
Another idea was that alternative media systems should be developed, such as Indymedia, that be out of the control of the political authorities in the State and be thus able to relay the Truth and bare facts to the population without distorting them with subliminal comments.
This idea was amended, however, with the remark that such means like Indymedia do not reach out to the majority of the people. (people are poor, they do not have computers and can not afford buying any, nor can they afford going to Internet Caffes; many are illiterate persons or computer illiterate; there are poor and underdeveloped regions where there is no electricity not to speak about internet facilities) – so alternative Media reamains available only to a restricted number of mostly young people in urban areas.
The final conclusion was that the Campaign against NATO, Bush and the warmonger policy promoted by the US and its allies was indeed successful as the Turkish authorities mobilized a tremendous force to prevent any disturbance of the NATO Summit.
2.2.Friday, 25th of June 2004, 4p.m.
The workshop suggestively entitled ‘To the One that Slaps you…’ dealt in an inter-active manner with issues like:
- The way we react when violence is put against us;
- How could one oppose in a non-violent manner the State authorities (civil disobedience);
- How much violence would one employ in order to reach a certain (supposedly democratic) political aim;
- How much violence would one use in the hypothetical situation of holding the political power
The second part of the workshop (in which a film should have been presented and discussed) was cancelled as a British activist that was supposed to take part in the event had been arrested by the Police on the street.
The workshop took place in a famous caffe named ‘The Black Cat’, where left, green and revolutionary activists meet regularly in a bohemian atmosphere.
2.3.Friday, 25th of June, 7p.m.
This was by far the most interesting seminar organized, its title – ‘Who is NATO for and against?’ – speaking for itself.
It was hosted by the elegant headquarters of the Istanbul Doctors’ Chambers (Istanbul Tabip Odasi).
Some 70 participants attended the meeting. Amongst them: BAK, ISF and Trade Union activists, students, intellectuals and journalists.
The following foreign guests were present: Aliki Papadomichelaki (Synaspismos, Greece) and Izzet Izcan (Turkish Cyprus MP). Unfortunately, George Galloway (British MP) could not be present.
The meeting’s moderator was Suleyman Celebi, President of the DISK Trade Union, one of the main organizers of the whole series of events.
The discussions focused on a critic of the globalizing and of warmonger policy promoted by NATO and the US.
Aliki Papadomichelaki (Synaspismos Greece) branded the US and Bush for their neo-liberal imperialist and global expansion policy and for posing as the ‘universal policeman’ only to conquer and subdue the world.
Ms. Papadomichelaki pointed out that it seems that the US are not willing to wage wars by themselves any longer, but instead they shrewdly make use of and engage European States through NATO in military conflicts with strategic aims for their own ends.
She spoke also on behalf of the Left European Party (recently founded in Rome on the 8th of May 2004) calling for international solidarity and unity of the Left against the neo-liberal capitalism and the US policy, adding that this party might just be one of the chances for that end.
Ms. Aliki Papadomichelaki uttered a protest and expressed her deep concerns regarding what she named ‘the militarization of the Olympic Games in Athenes’, when, under the cover of providing security, NATO have the opportunity to deploy military forces in Greece, organize military manoeuvres and act as a deterrent and intimidating factor in the whole region.
Ms. Papadomichelaki ended by wishing her best to the organizers and participants at the Great Demo against NATO and Bush the following day.
Izzet Izcan (Turkish Cyprus MP) said that the US have been using NATO as a military device to serve their own interests world-wide.
Mr. Izzet Izcan underlined that the present-day geo-political, economic and financial battle is being fought for the Middle East because ‘the one who has the Oil has the Power and thus can be the Master of the World’.
The speaker explained that the US had to devise conflicts and wars in the area so that they could make their way into the region and claim to be the peacekeepers.(the Gulf War, the international terrorism allegedly promoted by the Arab and Muslim World, the occupation of Iraq, and so on and so forth)
The Middle East will soon be not only the region where civilizations and cultures meet (and sometimes clash) but also the playground where super-powers dispute their hegemony. Mr. Izzet Izcan explained that on one side the EU will soon be organized and structured on a federal base becoming much like of an American super-state on the old European mainland, whereas on the other side there are Russia, China, Japan and India firmly standing.
Although the latter four have their own divergent politics and own latent conflicts, they all focus on the Middle East as opponents to the US and EU, and having their own hegemonic interests.
‘This is the reason why’, continued Mr. Izzet Izcan, ‘the US need desperately to grab Turkey and use it as the Gateway to the mastering of the Middle East’, which eventually may lead to the mastering of the whole world.
In this perspective, organizing the NATO Summit in Istanbul becomes a sort of a shrewd exercise to capture the kindness and willing of the Turkish authorities to enter and play the game the US want in the region, as well as a means of making Turkey feel obliged for the ‘attention’ it was granted.
Mr. Izzet Izcan ended by pointing out that though the anti-NATO and anti-Bush Campaign did not succeed in stopping the NATO Summit proper in Istanbul, it succeeded in raising the awareness of the people regarding the hidden plans of the US through NATO in Europe and in the Middle East.
2.4.Saturday, 26th of June 2004
The events planned were cancelled as some of the foreign guests could not enter Turkey.
2.5.Sunday, 27th of June 2004
DEMONSTRATION AGAINST NATO SUMMIT
About 40,000 people gathered together in Kardikoy, a district across the Golden Horn, beginning with the early hours of the morning in spite of the high security measures both on land, sea and air, and the deterrence exercised by Apache helicopters and F 16 fighters unceasingly flying above the area.
The feeling and the power of those people was beyond any description, excelling the military power displayed in the air and on the ground
They gathered on three different roads that meet and unite into one main six-lane road. Everything happened in order and discipline without any incidents, proving a very good coordination and organization.
Shortly after 11 a.m. the Demo began with the Trade Unions DISK and KESK traditionally opening the marching. The Turkish Communist Party and the other left wing political parties followed, then came the social movements and NGOs – BAK, ISF, and others. Finally came the Muslim Movements and the Anarchists.
Contrary to anyone might have expected not a single sign of violence was displayed.
The massive police forces deployed every second side street with armoured vehicles did not challenge the demonstrators either.
After having marched a couple of kilometres or so, the Demo reached a great plaza – in fact a huge bus station – where the organizers directed each group to take its position on the designated lane in front of an improvised stage where speakers delivered discourses.
Trade Union leaders, political party leaders, social movements leaders and foreign guests (a British left wing leader and a leader of the Greek Communist Party who managed to make his way with a group of Greek activists across the border) uttered their speeches.
Anti-NATO, anti-Bush, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and anti-war slogans were shouted.
Singers and bands sang and played live revolutionary songs, many-a-time accompanied by the people.
Tens of TV and Radio stations’ reporters were also present, along with newspapermen. Even a Japanese TV station sent its crew to the location.
Around 3 p.m. the organizers put an end to the Demo and managed to withdraw those many thosands of people in a perfecly ordered manner without any incident giving thus another lesson to the military gazing at them.
I would like to express my thanks to F. Levent Sensever, Erkin Erdogan (organizers and coordinators of Istanbul Social Forum), to Yildiz Őnen (Secretary General of BAK) and Arife Kofe (leader of BAK), as well to all those who comradely helped me and supported me participate in the series of events they organized in Istanbul during the Peace Summit.
I would also like to express on behalf of the Romanian Social Forum our appreciation for the example the Turkish progressive social forces and Left gave the World through organizing and carrying out the anti-NATO events.
1st of June 2004