Twenty-eight Greenpeacers, mostly foreigners, and two journalists are held for six weeks now in a Russian prison: In a surprising but not unheard of move, Russia has jailed the Greenpeace activists or “pirates” aboard a Greenpeace International ship for scaling a Russian-owned Gazprom oil platform.
One of them is a young woman from Turkey.
The environmental hardline activists are not the most extreme out there, but their actions known widely in the western world are usually done without severe impunity. But the Russians, famous for jailing Pussy Riot activists are not letting go of the activists.
Gizem Akham, a 24 year old cooking student from Istanbul is among the 30 Greenpeacers who could face seven years of jail time, or in a correctional colony.
According to her Greenpeace profile: Gizem has always believed in leading a simple life that is respectful of all living things. She has dedicated her life to this principle. In her middle-school years, Gizem helped collect clothes and books for underprivileged children. When she turned 18, she and her father arrived at the Greenpeace Mediterranean office in Istanbul to volunteer. Since then, she has been an active volunteer in many campaigns.
Gizem lives on one of the Prince’s Islands off the coast of Istanbul together with her cat, Momo. Here, she finds the peace and simplicity that is hard to find in the city centre. Gizem left her studies in International Finance to study Gastronomy. Her specialty is deserts and she also used to bring fresh baked cheesecakes every time she visited the Istanbul office and her friends back home really look forward to tasting more of her delicious cakes and pies.
The group, which includes long-time Greenpeace activists, were charged with piracy but now face a lesser sentence of hooliganism.
International involvement is welcome because Russia clearly does not understand the importance of Greenpeace in the modern, environmental dialogue. The fall out by the eco community worldwide could be a disaster for Russia who so wants to belong to the modern, developing world.
Doing it by bully force will not bode well for Russia who is trying to assert itself as a world power in the race for oil as the arctic opens up.
Russia plans to begin selling oil later this year: “As was envisaged, production is expected to start by the year-end,” Gazprom Neft Shelf, a unit of Gazprom, said in an email to Reuters. It was the first public remarks by the company since Greenpeace activists tried to scale the production platform at Russia’s first Arctic offshore oil project last month.
Greenpeacer activists are concerned that an oil spill could damage the world’s only untouched area, becoming bigger now that global warming has caused much of the arctic to melt. The group attempted to peacefully scale the Russian-owned facility in the arctic.
After BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in 2010, there are concerns about a future spill in the arctic. Gazprom said last Thursday that it is able to handle any oil spills at Prirazlomnoye, its rig in the arctic.
Get the latest developments on this case from the Greenpeace website. Or follow #FreeTheArctic30