In just two days, on July 28, it will be the one-year anniversary of the passing of the UN resolution on the human right to water and sanitation. While the UN General Assembly determined on that day that everyone should have access to clean water, it is clear that privatization schemes continue to run rampant throughout the world, undermining the goal of the resolution and targeting impoverished communities as they continue to treat water as a commodity. You can see an unfortunate example of this battle over public resources happening right now in Hopa, Turkey.
Back in June, we learned that 54-year-old Turkish water advocate Metin Lokumcu had died in a clash with police in Hopa. Lokumcu was protesting the construction of a hydroelectric dam that would threaten local communities with displacement and disrupt their access to nearby water sources.
Food & Water Watch was saddened to learn that Lokumcu, an activist and professor, had suffered a heart attack when police sprayed protestors with tear gas as he was participating in a peaceful demonstration about water rights. According to the official autopsy report, Lokumcu had a pre-existing heart and lung disease but, according to personal accounts from protestors in Turkey, many believe that Lokumcu was a victim of police brutality.
We recently learned that there have been a total of 35 arrests from this peaceful protest since it first took place back in May, including the arrest of Taylan Kaya, one of the 13 members of the steering committee the People’s Shelters organization. In addition to Lokumcu’s death and the 13 arrests, there have been a number of injuries and police raids to the offices and homes of the People’s Shelters activists.
Food & Water Watch stands in solidarity with the jailed protestors and the citizens of Turkey as they battle for their right to water. Executive Director Wenonah Hauter originally offered the following perspective and words of encouragement to water advocates in Turkey when news of Lokumcu’s death first began to spread…
“The good people of Turkey should be allowed to exercise their innate right of free speech to speak out against the government’s increasing pursuit of hydropower strategies that cause environmental destruction, displace communities and often lead to violent clashes between communities and police. How many more people like Mr. Lokumcu must die before the state recognizes that economic development strategies must be rooted in the participatory democracy of local communities?”
Today, Food & Water Watch released Water = Life: How Privatization Undermines the Human Right to Water, a report that shows why we should not hand over the operations of our public utilities to private enterprise. The research shows that poor, rural communities with weak governments — the ones that are most vulnerable to privatization — would benefit from working together by establishing public-public partnerships (PUP’s) more than they would from privatization.
Meanwhile, approximately 2.6 billion people throughout the globe currently lack access to clean water and basic sanitation. We’ll continue to pay close attention to developments in Turkey as they unfold and hope that protestors can continue to exercise their right to peaceful protest.