Young voices: Turkey: “I realized that it is not a change. It is a crisis”

Filed by Elif Ünal. A main sign of climate change in Turkey is water shortage. “It is becoming more obvious, day by day, says activist Elif Duru Kireççi. “We are not above the nature; we are part of it. We are living together with the trees and animals. The most important step we should take is to admit that.”

“Also, we should know that there are lots of things we can change in our lives even though they are considered to have less contribution. We should leave our comfort zones and take responsibility. For mitigation we should admit that we are at the core of the crisis. We are the reason of it, and we are the ones who will confront with it”.

Started by an 11-year-old

Kireççi is hopeful about the future and thinks the world can limit average global warming to 1,5 degrees. The climate movements are incredible right now and it gives me hope. For decades, the climate activism was existing but very silent. We made a huge development but if we continue like this it is not possible. The government should not see us as enemies. They should collaborate with the companies and the movements. After that, it will be possible to limit global warming” she told.

According to Kireççi, the Fridays for Future in Turkey started when a very young boy, Atlas Sarrafoglu (11) learned about Greta Thunberg’s call for a strike on 15th of March 2019. He then asked his mother whether there were any strikes in Turkey, and when he learned about the answer, he said he would call people to start a strike. With assistance from his parents, he contacted a radio station and announced the call for a strike. 150-200 young people gathered in a park and received much media attention. Kireççi, then 16, joined the protests and is one of the leading personalities within the movement. It is very unusual thing for s student to go on strike, especially in Turkey. “In one of the most central points of Turkey (Kadıköy, İstanbul) we gathered nearly four thousand people and it was very critical.”

The poor should not be blamed

Istanbul municipality is supportive of the movement, and they were called for a meeting with the mayor (who is in opposition to the Erdogan government) Ekrem İmamoğlu. This also created more media attention. On the other hand, an ultranationalist youth association the Youth Union of Turkey, have raised fierce critique. They have called Greta Thunberg “an imperialist tool” and started censoring graffiti of Thunberg on city walls.

In Turkey, politics is not easy, so activists are careful, and declare that the movement is “above politics”. The people who will be most affected by the climate crisis are the youth and economically disadvantaged people. It is, according to Duru Kireççi wrong to blame them for the crisis. “I cannot say don’t use coal to the economically disadvantaged people because they would not care, and they are right. The government is distributing coal to them, and they need this. The responsibility belongs to the government in this case” she says.

The main obstacles to concrete climate action are the economic problems, according to Kireççi. “People believe that economy is the most important thing. However, when we do not have the world we can live, people will understand that none of these problems will matter”, she said, thus criticizing those who give more importance to the economic problems than climate crisis.

Change will come

Elif Duru Kireççi thinks she will see many changes during her lifetime. “I believe the awareness will be much higher. When the impacts of the climate crisis become more obvious it will be non-negligible. I think the great proportion of the people will be more aware. One of the most important changes will be in the cities. From transportation to the households, we will see lots of changes”.  

Her message to politicians goes like this: “Hello. I am Elif Duru Kireççi. I am 16 years old. I am an activist in Fridays for Future. I have a message to the politicians: We want to collaborate with them. We are not supporting any political view, and we need their collaboration for all our activities. So, on our next journey, we wish that we do a lot of work.”