Middle East: Annual women's bike ride for peace and solidarity
Pippa Bacca, 33, was an Italian artist who was found raped and murdered earlier this month on April 12 near Tavşanlı village in the Gebze region, a few hours east of Istanbul. Bacca had embarked on a hitchhiking trip with her friend Silvia Moro on March 8 from Milan and was headed to Israel as part of their "Brides on Tour" project aimed at pleading for peace in conflict areas.
Bacca arrived in Turkey on March 19 after hitchhiking through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Hungary while wearing a wedding dress of her own design. The two artists separated in Istanbul and planned to meet in Tel Aviv.
With the same message as that of Bucca's, the 21 Turkish women participating in this year's Follow the Women bike tour will ride in her memory with the aim to finish her journey symbolically, said Taclan Topal, country coordinator of the nonprofit organization.
"We felt very sorry about what happened to Pippa," said Topal. "She was wearing a white dress and was on her way to Palestine, as are we," she said and added that all the women in the group had been affected by Bucca's murder and felt a sense of responsibility to do something in response. The Turkish women aged 20 to 52 are comprised of university students, professionals and homemakers. Designer Bahar Korçan has designed and donated a wedding dress that one of the team members will wear on the last leg of their trip into Palestine. "We are going to wear the dress to finish her journey symbolically," said Topal adding that this was how they felt they could promote and contribute to peace.
Follow the Women is an international nongovernmental organization comprised of approximately 300 ordinary women, from as many as 30 different countries, who support peace and an end to violence in the Middle East. In an effort to raise awareness on how conflict influences women and children in the region they have been organizing bicycle rides from Beirut to Palestine since 2004. A Turkish delegation has joined the event every year since it began and Topal said this year the team's participation is a record 21 compared to around 10 in previous years. This year's team is sponsored by Turkey's first lady, Emine Erdoğan.
On May 1 the 21 Turkish women will fly to Beirut where they will join over 500 women from around the world and ride from Beirut to Damascus to Amman and end their journey in Palestine. Their ride will last from May 2-15 and cover 296 km.
For more information about Follow the Women, visit www.ftwride.org
29 April 2008
Source: Turkish Daily News