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Romania, Turkey and Portugal

Analysis of the dynamics and useful seggestions In this sessionare presented three study cases on conflicts happened in Romania, Turkey and Portugal. The session aims at providing tools to

analyse these conflicts and to understand their dynamics. Furthermore it aims at defyning the roles played and at understanding the reactions proposed.


Setting: a neighborhood in the Southern part of Bucharest, Romania, with average living standards and low to-average crime rate. Year: 2010

Causal agent and context: a man and his wife, both in their mid 50s, move into an apartment building. They are described by their new neigh bors as “quiet and keeping to themselves”. Soon, rumours start to circu late among their neighbours that the man used to be an informer for the SRI (Romanian Intelligence Service) during the communist era.

Romania has a very difficult history concerning this subject and the media is actually full of scandals concerning high profile politicians who are supposed to have been informers during the communist era, but who are yet to be proven so. The general opinion concerning such ex-informers is almost violently negative.

Conflict: although the rumours cannot be confirmed, the man’s neigh bours become quite aggressive (some only passive-aggressive) towards the man and his wife and even towards his children and grandchildren, when they come to visit. The range of aggression spans from not speak ing to or even saying hello to the members of his family, or never holding the elevator for any of them, to quietly but consistently sabotaging their daily life. Therefore, the man and his family now face problems such as: mail mysteriously disappearing from their mailbox, the postman leaving them notices in their mailbox (as if no one was home) instead of handing them their pensions personally, the sales-persons in the small shops around the apartment building mysteriously running out of exactly the merchandise they want to buy, and so on. Most of the inhabitants of the building have also taught their children to never speak to or even be polite to the man’s family and never speak to or play with his grandchildren, should the occasion ever arise. Even more so, the conflict is now grow ing and, what is for now only passive-aggression, is now being extended towards any neighbours that might break this “silent code” and speak (if only out of politeness) to the man or his family. The general tendency seems to be the ostracizing of any people either partial or even neutral to this family, going as far as spreading rumours of communist sympathy, thus applying pressure on those people and resulting in quietly forcing them into respecting their “silent code”.

Case Study analysis 1: Romania

Similarly to its neighbouring countries, in 1989 the majority of the popula tion in Romania was strongly discontented with the Communist regime. Ceausescu’s economic development programmes were considered responsible for the country’s widespread poverty. At the same time, together with poverty, the country was experiencing the increasingly tighter grip of the Securitate, the communist secret police that was turn ing Romania into a total police state. Ceausescu’s final years in power saw an increase in control over society with telephone tapping systems being installed, the Securitate recruiting more and more agents, censor ship being extended and records being kept containing information on a large segment of the population. According to the CNSAS (the Council for Studies of the Archives of the Former Securitate), by 1989 one in three Romanians was an informant for the Securitate.

To recruit informants the population was kept in a state of dishearten ment and apathy: people were not threatened, as this could have lead them to provide false information, on the contrary, they were sweet-talked into it with the promise of a job promotion, the release of the authorization for a trip abroad, the provision of drugs for an ill son or with something as futile as a car. However, the collapse of Nicolae Ceausescu’s regime in 1989 marks the beginning of Romania’s process of democratization.

The conflict case we are currently reviewing shows that within Romanian society former informants enjoy a rather negative reputation. Such negative feeling is deeply rooted in Romanian society and goes back to a few generations, thus showing how widespread and common this feeling is.

Recent studies on the topic of constructive conflict management have pointed out that there is a strong link between personal behaviour and social and political attitudes. Therefore a strategy which aims at solving conflicts in a constructive and peaceful manner while being able to bring about effective, long-lasting changes in society must take into considera tion not only major social and political conflicts, but first and foremost per sonal, everyday ones. A conflict has a private/personal dimension and a social, collective one, which are very much intertwined, yet have very dif ferent ways of manifesting themselves. The social dimension is structured on various levels: on a first micro level comes the family, then the community (meso-level), finally on a macro level there are nations. Unsurprisingly, it is impossible to effectively manage a social conflict with out putting in place strategies to also deal with the internal and private level of such conflict.

To this end, an effective method of bringing about effective changes at the micro/meso as well as the macro level is the so-called “Invisible Theatre”, a form of the Theatre of The Oppressed.

In its simplest form, this tool is timeless and was massively used dur ing the Weimar Republic in Germany, before the Nazi takeover, by groups called agit-prop. Boal used it and organized it theoretically in Argentina in 1971 when, as exiled, he was forced to do political theatre in secret.

The purpose of the Invisible Theatre is to encourage the public to engage in the act being performed and see what their reactions are and what other possible alternatives are there to be investigated. Most of the times, theatrical performances take place in public places with unexpect ed by-standers, whom the actors will try to get unknowingly involved in the scene. The scenarios portrayed are realistic and provoke a reaction from spectators. Once actors get the attention of the public, they focus on the issues they want to be discussed, introducing new pieces of information and points of view while interacting with fellow actors and improvising with the audience. It was Boal’s idea that the theatrical performance should never be revealed as such, since doing so would invalidate its effects and turn the event to a mere “theatre piece”.


In 1989 the multinational gold mining corporation Eurogold Madencilik A.S. received a permission from the Turkish Ministry for Energy to search for gold in Bergama. The mining project would primarily take place in three villages (Camköy, Ovacik and Narlica) located in the Bergama area, on the Aegean Coast of the country. In 1991, after Eurogold had found gold in that area, it started its mining project after carrying out the environmental impact assessment procedure and began to build up the mining plant. One of the main characteristics of this region though, is that almost the whole popula tion is living from agriculture – products being cultivated are mainly olives, tobacco and cotton.

The inhabitants of the respective villages first welcomed this economic initiative thinking of getting a job in the mine but as the mining activity start ed the inhabitants got suspicious about the Eurogold project. The corpora tion conducted test drillings in Bergama in order to analyse the structure of the earth. This again had the consequence that poisonous chemical sub stances contaminated the water resources of that area, which in turn caused diseases among the local population. In 1994, soon after this inci dents a group of lawyers from the Izmir Bar Association filed a lawsuit against the mining company in the Administrative Court of Izmir. The lawyers were claiming the right to life in “an healthy and balanced environ ment” by referring to Article 56 of the Turkish Constitution. Also Sefa Taskin, the mayor of Bergama, organised together with the mayors of all 17 affect ed villages, panels and meetings for the villagers to get and provide more in-depth information about the technical dimension of gold mining and also its environmental and social consequences.

The stakeholders tried to create public attention for their concern. They thus tried to reach their goals via establishing close links with the media. The villagers were told that the mining activity of Eurogold would devastate their local environment with all its flora and fauna. The techniques being applied and substances being used in extracting the noble metal being found in that area would cause serious diseases and contaminate the air and land of the region. The first protests started in 1996.

In 1997 the Administrative Court of Izmir and the Supreme Administrative Court commanded the closure of the plant due to the fact that the mining activity was harming the ecosystem of the region and human health of the local residents. The mining company though did not pay any attention to the judgment and continued with its business. The next activist response of the Bergama villagers was to invade the mining plant. In the course of this protest some demonstrators were even arrested. In 1999 finally, after 10 years, the environmental movement could achieve the closure of the plant. In the meantime the government decided for the renewal of the operating permits and in 2001 the company restarted its mining activities. The instantaneous response of the citizens was to march 10 km to Bergama together with their farm animals demanding the enforcement of the judgment that had been pronounced, which stipulated the closure of the plant and referring to their right to life in an healthy and balanced environment. In 1998 the villagers had brought their case to the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) to get wider support and evidence for the fact that their human rights were being violated by the Turkish government. In 2004 the ECHR published its judgment saying that the mining activity was against the domestic jurisdiction of Turkey and that therefore the continuation of the min ing activity would indeed violate the human rights of the local population. The large scale activism entailed the establishment of wider networks and support and also raised international alertness for what was happening in Bergama. The Bergama Environmental Committees, and in particular Sefa Taskin, the mayor of Bergama, right from the beginning of the grass roots activity, made any effort to establish wider inter organizational links and gather public support, to put their agenda to the national and international political platform.

The government claimed that these associations had the hidden aim to prevent Turkey from profiting from its natural resources and therefore impeding the country to develop economically.Nowadays the Bergama environmental movement with its whole socio political scope against the mining plant is still active. The current stage of the resistance movement has still not succeeded in shutting down the mine, due to the fact that the government is still not enforcing the judgments made by the ECHR and the Supreme Administrative Court. Due to this fact the protests of the villagers are still ongoing and vehement.

Case Study analysis 2: Turkey

The distinctive trait in this conflict case is how the people of Bergama’s neighbouring towns got active: they organised a peaceful action as a spon taneous response to what was going on in Bergama. Both direct actions and protests have equal dignity. For instance: picketing, vigils, shadowing, fasting, non co-operation, boy cotts, strikes, work stoppage, occupation of the workplace, civil disobedi ence, protest marches, demonstrations, protests and assemblies are all equal forms of constructive, nonviolent actions. Direct actions aim at raising public awareness rather than force the opponent to enact the desired changes, although the latter can still happen. Having said so, it is important to keep in mind that direct nonviolent actions combine the social power of the protest and the refusal of cooperation with the moral strength of volun tary suffering for the sake of others.

However, actions too can be considered a form of persuasion whose purpose is to change the opponent’s point of view and behaviour.

Thus, nonviolent forms of action can be used as a way to:

  • achieve something new, such as: fairer laws, freedom, the respect of civil and human rights, stop the perpetration of wrongdoings or to urge governments, corporatations and other organisations to implement certain policies;
  • defend something/somebody, such as: fair laws, democratic institutions, civil society achievements, territories, cultures and heritage, people and organizations.

In the above cases, the forms of action employed are nonviolent: non-cooperation, civil disobedience, boycott, sabotage, constructive solutions and many other more subtle forms of actions organized on a local level using different tools and methods in line with a specific context. History provides many examples of active, nonviolent actions that had a positive outcome: non-cooperation with those in power, social, economic and political boycott, leafleting, tax protest and wildcat strikes.

The key element for the effective organization of a direct, nonviolent action is internal and collective preparation of the group of people in charge of leading it.

In the case of Turkey, it is interesting to note how, united by a common cause, the citizens and their representatives called for the support of the international community, thus bringing the conflict a broader media and public agenda. By pleading for the support of the international communi ty and sharing the problems and difficulties that Bergama was experienc ing, protesters gained valuable help and insights while raising public awareness about the conflict taking place in the area. Conflicts based on environmental and social issues often lead to a clash with those holding the economic power. In these cases, direct, nonviolent action is a great instrument of encouraging the population to take an active role and make their protests more visible to the general public. Nonviolent actions allow the public to become aware of a conflict without having to engage in an open, direct clash. In a context of self-assertion, both on a personal and collective level, nonviolent actions are an effective means of social and political dissent.


Some time ago, a group of researchers working on a European project wanted to take advantage of the presence of some European and American colleagues in Lisbon, while also organizing a venue for the youth who had been involved in the research project, to come to the University (a not very familiar environment for them) to present their views and feelings to the pub lic. They thought that the opportunity would be a forum to present the reali ty in different youth contexts (Amsterdam; Andalusia; several contexts in Lisbon) as studied by other researchers, while discussing with the youth their opinion on their daily lives, experiences of discrimination/racism. Moreover they would discuss their feelings about some accomplishments (lyrics, song, graffiti, video, etc.) done during the summer, funded by the Critical Neighborhood Programme (with EU funding). These activities had been the target of their ethnographic fieldwork.

As a team, they came up with a plan of action, knowing that the project did not envision some of the expenses. The team itself would provide for some expenses and try to find other donors. Thus the plan included collab orations: the team should have saved money from per-diem expenses from the field trip to the Netherlands, in order to cover the ethnic food prepared by the cape verdian migrants. The foreign researchers should have asked for their money from her own institution that could cover the expenses. Critical Neighbourhood and local authorities had expressed their interests, but they promised their support only in a verbal way. So, while Critical Neighborhood said they could provide the gasoline for the transportation, the Head of the city town, promised to provide the two vehicles that they manage. Vale da Amoreira is located at about 60 km from the city of Lisbon, face several problems for mobility and public transportation.

The event was carried out successfully just as planned, with the partic ipation of the youth, and the coffee break with Cape Verdean delicatessen was provided as expected. Later on, the local authority sent a bill for the gasoline, the toll road, and the payment of the drivers. Critical Neighbourhood’s local project manager said they could not get paid because they had not done the request before the event, and the local authority made all the requests to the team, hoping that the project would cover for everything that was requested, even if not agreed upon before. During the process, other issues came up, mainly bureaucratic, that had not been planned: e.g. the payement of insurance for the two vans to trans port the youth (it was never mentioned before) and the request of the offi cial letter, signed by the municipality, with the formal confirmation of sup porting the event. In fact the mayor gaved his support, but in an informal way never ratified.

Case Study analysis 3: Portugal

In the case of Portugal, the conflict being observed is a case of unshared implicit and explicit assumptions.

Experience shows that when an agreement between two parties does not yield the expected result, it is necessary to review the negotiating process and the assumptions upon which such agreement was signed. In particular, it is necessary to identify what was left unsaid, what was assumed and what was needed to be said in order to facilitate communica tion and put in place a relationship based on trust and shared responsibili ty between the organization and the government body.

In order to be effective, verbal agreements require a high level of coop eration and trust and, even when these two elements are present, it is still of the utmost importance to make sure that the agreement and the obliga tions verbally endorsed are fully understood and shared by both parties.

It is therefore worth highlighting that the concept of “responsibility” is deeply linked to the way requirements are phrased: the clearer the request, the more likely the other party will be able to understand it and provide an answer to it.

A request which is badly phrased can lead to confusion and misunderstanding: when this is the case, the other party will either be unable to provide a pertinent answer or, even if they are able to do so, they might decide to interpret it to their advantage

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