Today I woke up to the rather sensitive political situation as I was jogging into a normally tourist friendly square (Tashaluke), I would like to draw a comparison between the heavy police presence that was evident everywhere and the removal of the Sulukule people, this would be dangerous, but I shall try any way. The intimidation of the disciplined regiments of police echoes the determination that the authorities have displayed in turfing the Sulukule residents out. The laid back attitude of the police getting lunch as there was evidently not enough work for the many thousands of them, is a little bit like the civil societies and trade unions managing to get noticed, to bring the city to near chaos to bring their cause to the public eye, without causing much violence.
Sulukule is organized and also knows the power of organizing and the media as tactics to put political pressure on the authorities. This may not prevent inevitable eviction, but it buys time for negotiation and brings political clout to their cause.
We met the Agenda 21 staff members for the Middle East, they explained to us some interesting points about local governments, their structure and where the real power lies. A 21 is international NGO that encourages institutionalization of a process that came out of the Rio 1992 conference. It invites people from all the organized groups in a municipality to a meeting to create a group which will try to improve the situation of the city town or village by working together to cultivate the power of collective organization and action. They have created Local councils which appoint working groups that work on specific issues for instance urban design or education. The main speaker for the meeting was late due to the disruptions of the May 1st demonstrations, they were a stark difference from the radical activism of the labour day disrupters, they use quite diplomacy which was very impressive given the miniscule staff.
Before we spent another evening working the Budd team managed to have a stroll back from the A21 offices to the hotel through the touristic areas near the blue mosque back to the Golden horn, we witnessed the powerful effect of tourism to transform the city for the better in terms of physical improvements, but whether the communities that had to be displaced to allow the tourist to move in is something that we will never know.