A walk around one of the popular districts of Istanbul gives an insight into the excitement that has gripped Turkey ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary elections: streets are draped with multicolored bunting, posters of candidates cover every inch of wall while an army of party vans circles through the roads blaring out propaganda.
The main issues of the day are economic growth, unemployment and the raft of constitutional and judicial reforms proposed by the ruling AK (Justice and Development) Party.
One issue which has been largely sidelined from the debate is the government’s proposals to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plants, which they expect to provide a fifth of the country’s energy by 2020. But last Friday a group of environmental activists – from groups including Greenpeace and the Turkish Green Party – set up camp in Istanbul’s Taksin Square in opposition to the AK Party’s plans to build a nuclear reactor in partnership with the Russian government
Now numbering over two dozen tents and with more sleeping by night, the protestors are calling on the main political parties to withdraw the proposals which they argue are scientifically unsound, and to instead consider renewable energy alternative.
Onur Fidnngül, an activist staying at the camp, explained:
‘Permission for the construction of the reactor was given back in 1972, long before disasters such as Chernobyl and more recently Fukushima. There has been no reassessment of the safety of the plans nor evaluation of the risks it could pose to human health and the environment.
‘Since [approval was granted] two of the three independent scientists who put their name to it have died. The remaining one now wishes to withdraw his endorsement and has indicated that there was some degree of pressure at the time.’
Meanwhile there are fears over the suitability of the site for the reactor, with the proposed location situated around 180km from Adana – the city which was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter Scale in 1999 – and a mere 25km from the Ecemiş seismic fault line. With renewed scrutiny following the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant, the government responded by stating that the reactor would be a newer generation build. Yet this did not dampen the criticism of the plant plans, with nuclear physicist Hayrettin Kilic – who campaigns against nuclear energy projects – arguing that the ‘Russian technology does not comply with Western standards’ while pointing out problems with its cooling systems.
Energy security is without doubt an issue of great political and economic importance in Turkey. A pattern of high economic growth over the last twelve months has seen the annual increase in energy demand hit 6-8%, far outstripping the global average of 2.1%. In an attempt to curb high reliance on imported gas and coal governments over the past ten years have embarked on large-scale hydroelectric dam projects which now provide 25% of electricity, but which have proved contentious due to the environmental damage they have caused.
On a political level, the nuclear aspirations form part of the nationalist rhetoric of the ruling AK Party, who are expected to be successful at Sunday’s polls. On massive billboards throughout the country they boast of their desire to make Turkey one of the most powerful eight nations in the world by 2023 – the centenary anniversary of the birth of the secular Republic – and nuclear credentials appear to underline this bid.
However the protestors reject both of these energy production avenues and say that only by increasing the meagre 4% of energy currently provided by renewables (excluding hydroelectric) can Turkey balance sustainable growth with environmental protection.
‘Turkey has massive potential for renewable energy,’ says Bilge Otturk of Greenpeace. ‘We have the location with the second largest wind power potential in the world but the government is not doing enough to exploit it’.
So far the response from the establishment towards the camp has been derisory, as Onur Fidnngül explains:
‘The Prime Minister said that this is simply a site of festivities and that you can’t change things by fun. And the energy minister has simply stated that the plans are to go ahead and the reactor will be closed by 2071’.
Three out of the four parties represented in parliament remain committed to the plans, despite an opinion poll which indicated that 68% of the population are opposed to nuclear power.
Meanwhile a law restricting political demonstrations twenty-four hours ahead of elections means that the camp could be ejected by Saturday. But in the words of Mehmet:
‘Already in the last week it has forced the issue onto the election agenda. We hope that us being here – something quite unusual which has attracted attention – will make people start to think about the ecological future of the country as well as the economic’.
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform