Turkish initiatives ask to give peace a chance
Emrah Güler - ANKARAOn Feb. 21, 1958, British artist and designer Gerald Holtom put a circle around the nuclear disarmament symbol, completing his design that would eventually become the globally-recognized peace symbol. A conscientious objector in World War II, Holton was commissioned by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in protest against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment.
Holtom wrote about his design, a combination of the semaphore signals for the letters N and D, for “nuclear disarmament,” in a letter to Hugh Brock, editor of Peace News: “I was in despair. Deep despair. I drew myself: the representative of an individual in despair, with hands palm outstretched outwards and downwards in the manner of Goya’s peasant before the firing squad. I formalized the drawing into a line and put a circle around it.”
On its 58th anniversary, the peace sign is seen everywhere in Turkey, a symbol of both hope and desperation amid the dire times the country is experiencing. On Feb. 10, 1,500 people gathered in Istanbul’s Şişli Community Cultural Center, almost double the number of people the center could take, to put a united front to end civilian, soldier and police deaths amid barricades, deportations and repression.
The event was organized by the Barış İçin Herkes (Everyone for Peace) initiative, an umbrella group that brought together the diverse groups that popped up one after another following the detentions and defamations of the signees of the declaration “We will not be a party to this crime,” initiated by Academics for Peace, last month.
The participants in the Everyone for Peace meeting will give an idea to the determined and united nature of the support given to the Academics for Peace: Disabled for Peace, Writers for Peace, Filmmakers for Peace, Health Workers for Peace, Children for Peace, Retired for Peace, Students for Peace, Tourist Guides for Peace. The list goes on, and will likely include new groups with “for Peace” added to their names.
In a video call for the first meeting of Everyone for Peace, Gökhan Biçici from the Journalists for Peace summarized the turning point for the initiative: “The declaration by Academics for Peace had an unexpected impact. ... The impact multiplied, and this initiative is part of that.”
In another video call, C. Hakkı Zariç from Publishers for Peace said, “We are fighting to give the gift of peace to people. We are here for peace.”
Nazan Üstündağ, from the Academics for Peace and Women’s Initiative for Peace, invited everyone.
Meetings in Istanbul, as well as Ankara followed, turning #BarışİçinHerkes, the Turkish translation for Everyone for Peace, into a popular hashtag in social media, inspiring meetings, press conferences, exhibitions, concerts, rallies across Turkey. When talking about Everyone for Peace, however, the pioneering role of another initiative, Barış Bloku (Peace Bloc) should also be mentioned.
Political parties, unions, professional bodies, civil society organizations signed a declaration last July to become a united force against Turkey’s potential military intervention in Syria.
Since then, the Peace Bloc has been organizing press conferences, speeches, panels, rallies, social media campaigns, even launching a photo competition, urging the government adamantly to restore peace.