The
Nuclear-Free Future
Award

in the Category


RESISTANCE

is presented to

ARIF ALI CANGI

TURKEY

Johannesburg
17 November 2016

Arif Ali Cangi

Attorney for Life and Justice is not a registered profession. But it would be the fitting designation for Arif Ali Cangi, who was born in the Turkish province of Mersin on March 13, 1964. In 1995, at the very beginning of his legal career, he became a board member of the lawyer’s association Cagdas Hukucular Dernegi and dealt with issues of human rights, torture and women’s, children’s and prisoner’s rights. A highlight was his fight for victims of the 1980 military coup.

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For the past twenty years he also engaged in resistance against health and environmental hazards. He supported the Allianoi initiative in its struggle against the flooding of that ancient town. To the peasants and settlers of Bergama he offered legal expertise in their fight against environmental devastation of their region caused by gold mining. For his efforts, he was physically attacked by enraged miners. The mayor of Dikili/Izmir hired him to fight for free access to the public water supply.

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With this background, it is little surprise that following press reports about illegal deposits of nuclear waste near Gaziemir/ Izmir he represented the potential victims against the company and the public institutions responsible for the contamination. Arif Ali Cangi is no quitter. As early as 2007, the Turkish Agency for Nuclear Energy had discovered nuclear waste on the site of a former lead factory, but it did nothing to protect the people living nearby. Together with the environmental protection organization EGECEP, Arif Ali Cangi brought the issue to the public’s attention. As lawyer for EGECEP, the Green Party and the Left Future Party he brought legal action against those responsible. At the same time, aided by several academics, he alerted the public to the dangers of nuclear waste. Eventually the perpetrators saw fit to remove the nuclear waste, but did so in such an unprofessional and sloppy way that Arif Ali Cangi had to raise the legal stakes: He turned to the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

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Recently, he became a member of the environmental committee of the Central Association of Turkish Lawyers. He acts as legal counsel in three lawsuits against the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. The first suit has been brought by the association itself, the second by the Green Party and the Left Future Party, the third by numerous environmental NGOs and individual citizens. An environmental impact study had found no objection to the construction, but its report is under litigation. The safety tests had serious errors. The plaintiffs are represented by a man who is not only their legal counsel but also directly affected; his family still live in Mersin.

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Yet another case involves the villages of Kesir Jörprübasi/Manisa and Kisir Söke Aydin. In the 1970s and 1980s the Turkish government prospected for and mined uranium across the country. Near the first village the government authorities established a facility where uranium ore was turned into yellow cake. Later the contaminated site was abandoned without any safety measures. The local population knew nothing about the hazards they were exposed to.

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Arif Ali Cangi is what received wisdom says a lawyer cannot be – a generalist wuth a holistic approach. He is a lawyer for human rights, an expert on women’s rights and one of the foremost environmental lawyers in Turkey. Asked about this wide scope he would say: I am a lawyer against destruction. Destruction is embedded in society, in the areas of human rights and political culture, in the reckless attacks against the environment and the vital base of human beings and other creatures. Last but not least the man from Mersin on the southeastern Mediterranean coast of Turkey is an advocate of political awareness. An activist and a nonviolent champion of justice. The Nuclear-Free Future Award cannot honor this antinuclear activist without paying tribute to the man who fights injustice and arbitrary repression. We gladly do so.