2 Million Istanbulians for 2 Million Trees

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Yesiller - Green Party of TurkeyAfter being informed about the plans for the construction of the third bridge over the Bosphorus between Asia and Europe, we immediately started to act. Construction of this new bridge and peripherial roads would lead to the destruction of at least 2,000,000 trees and take the city’s expansion northwards to the forest belt and fresh water resources of Istanbul. In order to stop this project and create awareness about the government’s transportation and urbanisation policies, the Green Party of Turkey decided to organise a campaign.    

The motto of the campaign was very simple : ‘2 million Istanbulians for 2 million trees’. We started calling on the people of Istanbul to defend their trees and protect their city. We wanted fellow citizens not only to express their concerns but also to start discussing traffic and housing matters. We aimed for the whole campaign to evolve into a local democracy issue. The campaign was intended to touch every citizen of Istanbul, it therefore had to be very easy to participate in and not involve any risk at all.
The citizens were asked to walk to their nearest seashore and peacefully light a candle for one hour, at 8 p.m. on 2 October 2010, to demonstrate their opposition to the third bridge project.    

We first prepared a detailed file containing information on why we opposed the project, and suggested alternative ways of solving the traffic problem in Istanbul, specifically concerning the Bosphorus crossings. We wanted to show that a new bridge was not the only solution, that it was the worst among a range of other options. Furthermore, it had not been discussed properly by experts and citizens.  

We contacted all local NGOs and invited them to take part. We defined 23 locations on various parts of the city’s shoreline and told the NGOs that they were free to participate at any of these locations, perform their own original protests, exhibit their flags or banners. We assured them the Greens would not to force any single slogan or form of protest. All were invited to be a part of the 2,000,000 Istanbulians who reject the chopping down of 2,000,000 trees. More than 20 NGOs accepted our offer and started to promote the campaign among their members.    

In cooperation with professionals, we designed a campaign strategy,a campaign logo and a calendar to pick up the pace as the target date approached. We prepared special campaign t-shirts, posters, stickers, stencils and flyers. Over the course of this campaign we distributed 100,000 flyers in the streets. Through the campaign we had a chance to talk face to face with more than 10,000 citizens and to tell them about the Green party, Green transportation policies, Green cities, etc.   

We visited journalists, informed them about the campaign and tried to get their support. Not long afterwards, the first news started to appear shyly in the media, and soon our representatives were invited to TV channels and radio stations for interviews about the campaign.   

We prepared a web page to be the centre of communication between supporting NGOs and to exchange the latest news and developments. We also actively used Facebook and Twitter networks, easily reaching out to more than 25,000 individuals who gave their full support to informing people who were not reached by NGOs.   

We contacted artists, movie and TV stars, and musicians, then filmed them stating that they supported the campaign. We placed these videos on our web pages and shared them also on Facebook.    

5.000 people participated in the event to light a candle

5.000 people participated in the event to light a candle

Finally, at 8 p.m. on 2 October 2010, more than 5,000 people in 23 locations participated in the event to light a candle. At each of these locations, different activities were carried out, from classical music concerts to pantomime shows, forums, etc., and at least one Green Party member was present to read out the press release and supervise the event.   

This campaign was the first of its kind in Turkey. More than 20 NGOs managed to act together for a political campaign under the leadership of the Green Party of Turkey It was a  very decentralised political action, which took place in 23 parts of the city, each location performing its own way spontaneously.   

The campaign of 2 million Istanbulians was widely covered by Turkish media. Some national TV channels broadcast the event live from various locations. Altogether, 22 TV channels and almost all newspapers covered the campaign in their news.   

Supporting NGOs were impresed by the success of the campaign and expressed their appreciation to the Greens for their cooperative approach.
The Green Party of Turkey is now preparing the second step of the campaign, extending it to a broader body of citizens together with local NGOs.
For more information, see: www.2milyonistanbullu.com.  

See also the Campaign Handbook chapters:
Issues and Conflicts
Traditional Media

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