Hundreds protest in Aliağa against plans to dismantle Sao Paolo 'death ship'

In Aliağa, hundreds demonstrated against plans to dismantle the freighter Sao Paolo, laden with asbestos and heavy metals, in the city on the Aegean Sea. The activists warn: "We will not let this ship of death come near us."

Workers' organizations and professional associations came together to protest in Aliağa near Izmir on Thursday. The Aliağa Platform for Work and Democracy had called to protest against the landing and scrapping of the Brazilian freighter Sao Paolo, which is contaminated with 600 tons of asbestos and heavy metals. The ship set sail from Rio on Thursday towards Aliağa.

Hundreds of people gathered in front of the Petrol-Iş Oil Workers' Union representation in Aliağa and marched to Democracy Square where a rally was held.

Banners reading "Aliağa is not the world's dump", "Don't touch our air, water and soil" and "Let's stop the ship of death - for jobs, environment and health" were unfurled. Aliağa's Emekli-Sen, Sebahattin Yeşiltepe, called for support for the legitimate and just struggle to prevent the poisonous ship from entering Turkish territorial waters.

Sönmez: "It's the same crime as cutting down trees in Şirnak"

Naci Sönmez, the environmental spokesman for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said: “Today the AKP government turned the whole of Turkey into a dumping ground for international companies. One of the most important centers for this is Aliağa. Aliağa is known for the exploitation of workers, but also for the destruction of nature by industry. Today, unfortunately, the government has again targeted Aliağa, this time as the location where the asbestos ship is to be dismantled. Those of us who fight for ecology will never hand over Aliağa, Fatsa, Ida Mountains or Şirnak to the current government and capital. Those who cut down trees in Şirnak today are committing the same crime that is being committed here. We will not be partners in this crime.”

Uğur: "We will end the rule of the palace"

Cavit Uğur, co-chair of SYKP (Socialist Reconstruction Party), said: “We are living in an era of disasters. We will put an end to all these disasters. We will show reality in the 2023 elections to those who think they can do all of this with impunity. Who is the company that brought this ship here? Who authorized the dismantling of the ship? It is the palace itself. We will put an end to the rule of the palace.”

"Stop the freighter in international waters"

Speaking on behalf of the Turkish Medical Association, Behiye Mungan stressed that this ship poses a heavy health threat. She pointed out that international initiatives are being taken to prevent the ship from entering Turkish territorial waters: “First and foremost, we plan to prevent the ship from entering Turkish waters. We are in contact with the medical associations of the countries through whose sovereign waters the ship will sail. Asbestos isn't the only threat posed by the ship. Work on radioactive materials was also carried out on this ship. When the ship is scrapped, there is also the question of how to dispose of the waste.”

Derğerli: "We will not let the freighter land"

Then Seçil Ege Değerli, board member of the Aegean Culture and Environment Platform (EGEÇEP), took the floor: “Turkey and Aliağa are not the dumping ground of the world. We don't want to die in the dirty wars of imperialism and its waste. We warn the government from here. We're going to burn those ships, we're not going to let that ship of death get near us.”

"The bosses don't care about the lives of the workers in the ship recycling facilities"

Finally, Deniz Gültekin read out a joint statement from the organizers on behalf of the Aliağa Platform for Work and Democracy. Gültekin explained that the life of the ship-breaking workers was worth nothing to the bosses, who were only oriented towards profit, and continued: “We, who have lived in Aliağa for years, know the working conditions of the ship-breaking workers. We know how much our sea, air and soil have been polluted by the industrial companies located in Aliağa for years. We live with the gas smells coming from the refineries, we live with the mountains of slag from the iron and steel works, we live with the toxic substances that end up in the sea when ships are dismantled, we have lived for years with the fact that in this city hundreds of workers have died, become ill and contracted cancer. In other words, we know very well those who want to bring this ship here, because they see no harm in endangering the lives of the city's workers and residents.”

"Aliağa is not the dump of the world"

Gültekin continued: "The Sao Paulo and all other poison ships should be scrapped wherever they were built. The dismantling facilities in Aliağa must be thoroughly inspected and working conditions must be designed in such a way that health and safety are not compromised. Safety of workers must be guaranteed. The plants that meet the existing regulations on paper but disregard human and environmental health should be closed. The operating licenses issued by the ministry should be revoked immediately. We don't want this ship in Aliağa. The Sao Paulo must not enter our country's territorial waters. We are against bringing the ship here, which no other country has taken on to dismantle. We reject Aliağa being treated like the world's dump. Turkey is not the dump of Europe, Aliağa is not the dump of Turkey. There is no other Turkey, no other Aliağa! It is our historical, humanitarian and ethical responsibility to leave our children a liveable city and country.”