Turkish chemical protest ends in violence and arrest

A Greenpeace protest against the location of hazardous industry on faultlines in Turkey has led to 14 arrests and violent confrontations between activists, police and security staff.

Greenpeace said that its staff encountered threatening behaviour and that those arrested were in police detention after the 15 August demonstration at Petkim Chemical Complex in Izmit Bay. The organisation said that it wanted to highlight the hazards to public health and the environment generated by locating such industries in areas where earthquakes are likely to occur. The campaign coincided with the first anniversary of an immense earthquake which hit north-west Turkey leaving 17,000 dead, and which sparked a huge fire at Turkey’s largest oil refinery. The inferno at the Tupras refinery threatened the important nearby city of Izmit and took fire-fighters four days to extinguish.

“The devastation caused by the Marmara earthquake last year brought to the fore the hazards posed behind chemical plants’ closed doors. Yet, the Bay of Izmit did not die on the 17th of August of last year. It was murdered by the industry a long time ago,” Tolga Temuge, Greenpeace’s toxics campaigner in Turkey, said. “We are demanding zero toxic discharges and the phase-in of alternative clean technologies.”

The protesters had docked near the quay of the Petkim plant and hung a 25-metre long banner on the quayside reading “Earthquakes Strike Once, the Chemical Industry Strikes Everyday”. The organisation says that the Petkim security were violent towards the activists and pushed two into the sea. Police then arrived and arrested 14 Greenpeace activists.

The organisation had chosen to protest at the Petkim plant for more than its proximity to faultlines. Greenpeace says that the plant consistently pumps toxic substances into the sea which are listed as priority contaminants for elimination from discharges under the ‘Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and Coastal Region of the Mediterranean’. It also says that the Turkish environment ministry admitted in a recent letter that it “could not provide the data Greenpeace required on the toxic chemicals used and hazardous waste generated by industrial plants in Turkey.”

Greenpeace wants Mediterranean governments to ratify the Barcelona Convention which aims to prevent, abate and combat pollution in the Mediterranean Sea area and to protect and improve its marine environment. All Mediterranean states, including the EU, are members of the convention, but only Tunisia has ratified its six protocols. Monaco, Italy and Spain have ratified all protocols except the Hazardous Waste and Offshore Protocols and other nations, such as Turkey, have far to go.

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