We were invited by BEKSAV (Organization to promote Culture and Arts) to get involved in a series of events in Istanbul between 6 and 10 September . The reason was that that week was “the biggest musical event in Turkish history” sponsored by Coca Cola. This rock concert cost $4million and the list of the Coca-Cola festival included Simple Minds, Pet shop boys, the Cardigans, Hooverphonic, Dreadzone, Sugababes, Echo & the Bunnymen, Suede, Dead Kennedys, Dirty Vegas and a lot of Turkish musicians.
When we arrived we realised that two counter festivals were going to take place to oppose the Killer Coke one: The BarisaRock (Peace and Rock) and BEKSAV. Both opposed Coca Cola for being one of the symbols of this system and solidarizes with SINALTRAINAL. The first was organised by Trade unions and a lot of non-governmental organizations. After a very interesting meeting with the president of the oil union workers, (Petrol-Is) Mustafa Oztaskin, where he expressed all his solidarity to the USO in Colombia, he agreed to give us 10 minutes of his speech in the BarisaRock festival to show his solidarity with the workers of SINALTRAINAL.
The BarisaRock festival was attended by almost 10,000 people, mainly Turkish rock bands, with videos from struggles and demos around the world (J18, Seattle, Genoa, Florence, Praha, etc). The crowd listened very attentively to the crimes that Coca Cola has committed in Colombia and finished it with the cry of “presente, presente, presente” for each of the nine workers assassinated in Colombia.
The following day we went to act against the real thing: Rock'n Coke Festival. We wanted to display the crimes of Coca-Cola in Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Nigeria and in other parts of the world, to inform people that supporting a concert sponsored by this huge multinational which clearly violate the human and workers rights of millions of people around the world.
However, it was not possible. 10 minutes before arriving at Coca Cola Town (they have built a sort of city in one of the airports of Istanbul where you can only consume Coca-Cola and pay with Coca-Cola money) we witnessed once again how the national army and police work very closely with transnational corporations (TNCs). We were stopped in a military checkpoint specially designed for us; from early in the morning the police had checked on our movements taking our car number plates. We were searched, filmed, intimidated and abused verbally. There was about 50 special units of the armed forces, with rifles, machine guns and all new equipment recently imported from the USA. Our camera films were taken and we were ordered to leave peacefully. Their excuse was the mayor had issued a decree the previous day to ban all demonstrations within 1 kilometer of where the concert was taking place.
We went back to BarisaRock festival to denounce the abuses committed against us by COCACOLA forces. The audience responded very positively and expressed again their support to SINALTRAINAL and to us.
In a country where the big debate is whether or not to send troops to Iraq, to release the US soldier being killed everyday, it is amazing how many people turned up in two different festival to oppose one of the biggest US multinationals. In Turkey, the social movements, the popular sectors and the left parties never drink Coca Cola. An example to follow in our country with many socialists who don’t see or don’t want to see the connections between TNCs and the violation of human and labour rights, and their own daily lives.