Issues of democracy and environmentalism now overlap in Turkey, says Greenpeace International Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo.
He also criticised Prime Minister Erdogan for seeing foreign plots behind the rallies that have escalated since the first environmental demonstration was held in Gezi Park in May.
The Gezi Park protests, which triggered a heavy-handed response by police, are still continuing with relatively peaceful rallies in many cities across Turkey.
Demands for democracy have for the first time overlapped with demands for environmentally sensitive policies, during the mass demonstrations that have shaken the country in the course of the last two weeks, according to the head of Greenpeace. Kumi Naidoo also hit out at the government’s portrayal of the protests as part of an “international conspiracy.”
What started as the protest of a small group over the demolition of Gezi Park near Istanbul’s Taksim Square turned into mass demonstrations and as such the activism of civil society in Turkey has attracted the attention of the whole world, said Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace International Executive Director, on June 27.
Naidoo added that mass demonstrations currently taking place in Brazil lately are partly inspired by what happened in Turkey.
He said Turkey’s environmental statistics were very disturbing. With more than 80 projects planned for fossil fuels energy, Turkey ranks number four in terms of posing a threat to the world, coming after China, India and Russia, according to Greenpeace.
“We know that many local communities have stood up largely on their own to protest an irrigation project or the construction of a coal power plant,” Naidoo said.
He also criticized Erdogan’s conspiracy theories in relation to the protests and accusing foreign groups of provoking people in Turkey.
“Most environmental struggles are led by locals, not Greenpeace. We follow them and we support them,” said Naido adding, “If Mr. Erdogan believes that people in Turkey are told what to do by foreigners, then he really does not understand what’s going on. It seems I have more faith in Turkish people’s conscience than Mr. Erdogan.”
Naido said he had praised the solidarity shown by Erdogan to the Palestinians, as well as his initial stance on Syria. He said he appreciated Erdogan’s call on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to listen to his people’s demands, adding, “I thought it was a positive voice at a time then no other leader was saying anything.”
“But there is a big irony because Bashar al-Assad had said exactly the same thing that Erdogan is now saying; that basically everything is instigated by foreigners,” said Naido, adding, “All the credibility Erdogan has built as a regional peace builder has been wiped out.”