Black Balloons in Washington DC

People in different cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, London, and Toronto have been coming together to raise awareness on the 668 babies and over 10,000 women who are being held unlawfully in prison in Turkey. To join this effort, the Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) members of the District organized an event to inform the people of the nation’s capital.

On November 11, AST, Set Them Free members, volunteer participants, and their friends in the DMV area came together to speak up for the victims of Turkey’s ongoing purge. They stood in solidarity at Lafayette Square, in front of the White House. By distributing more than 800 black balloons that said “#688 babies”, and over 1000 flyers, they worked to raise awareness about the injustice going on in Turkey, and its effect on innocent children. Some signs and banners read, “Behind Blankets, Not Bars,” “Tiny Fingers, Giant Bars, “668 Babies will take their first steps in prison,” and “Set Them Free!”. The event organizers’ declaration informed the people about the violations of the “UN Convention on the Rights of Children” in Turkey, and the broader government crackdown on the Hizmet Movement.

Throughout the event, sadness mingled with peace and solidarity in the chilly air. The participants were interviewed and expressed their concern for the victims, were shocked that they had not heard about this before, and shed tears as they heard more about the harsh conditions of the Turkish prisons.

Two graduate students from American University came to offer support. “It’s unconscionable” they said, “there’s no way to agree with this. No matter who you are, what you are, any political ideology, this is not something that is all right.” They highlighted that most people walking in the square would have never known about this. When Molly searched about the situation before coming to the event, she found very little information on Google. Ken agreed, and noted that the flow of information, or rather the blockage of it, is as unconscionable as the injustice itself.

The volunteers informed both the participants and the people passing by that they aim to increase national and global awareness through peaceful events like this until the women and children in prison get the freedom they deserve.