Having already spent most of my life around this man, his story still fascinates me to this day, even if it is heart-breaking. With perfect manners complimented by a very laidback attitude, it is difficult to believe how hectic David Grimason’s life actually is as he gently welcomes me in to speak to him.
Forgetting the fact that we are family, David launches into his story as if I or most of Britain haven’t heard it already. Alistair, son of David and his wife Ozlem, was born in January 2001. He was killed in a shooting incident on the 7th of July 2003 whilst holidaying in the seaside town of Foca, Turkey.
The incident in question happened in a busy café while Ozlem and her mother stopped for coffee. A fight broke out between several men a few tables away over a mobile phone. One man, Daimi Akyuz, decided to pull out a gun and begun firing shots around the café with no concern for who or what was around him.
This action resulted in the death of one man, injured two others and the death of Alistair who was two and a half years old. Daimi Akyuz is currently serving a 36 year sentence for murder.
Since the loss of his only child to gun violence, David has spent the last 10 years campaigning tirelessly with Amnesty International to help change gun laws, not only in Turkey, but throughout the world: “In 2004 I got involved with the Control Arms campaign, which involves a coalition of NGO organisations including Amnesty and Oxfam, and is calling for an International Arms Treaty Trade to regulate the out of control arms treaty trade.”
He believes that if he can help in the smallest way it could prevent other parents going through what he went through: “Having suffered the effects of gun violence I thought it was important to campaign for this treaty in order to try and affect change and prevent other families suffering the same type of injustice.”
David’s campaigning started shortly after Alistair was killed. His family decided to invent and take on a campaign against individual armament in Turkey.
This campaign secured over 300,000 signatures and these were presented to the Turkish parliament in December 2003. Since then some gun crime related punishments have been strengthened, however it is simply not enough.
Since joining Control Arms in 2004, David has undertaken an impressive array of work including travelling to Africa in 2006. It is obvious that he is used to being interviewed on this subject as he answers quickly without hesitation and perfect punctuality: “I travelled to northern Kenya to witness the devastating effects that arms are having on the area there.”
“The area was awash with guns and more were being brought to the region on a regular basis as they were easily brought over the borders by unscrupulous dealers from neighbouring countries.”
“The proliferation of weapons was causing misery through loss of life and injuries and everyone was living in fear.”
More recent than this, he spent two months in New York last year at the United Nations and was in London last weekend staging a protest and giving a speech to initiate the need for this treaty: “I took part in a media stunt that involved members of university Amnesty groups. I was also one of a panel of speakers. The panel included someone from Amnesty, Oxfam and the Foreign Office.”
“I do a lot of media work, highlighting the need for a strong treaty. I also lobby politicians to make sure that the UK government keeps a strong voice at the UN negotiations.”
When I brought up the subject of the Arms Treaty he was eager to get onto the subject and despite his laidback exterior, it was pretty clear he knew what he was talking about: “An Arms Trade Treaty would create legally binding arms import and export controls and ensure all governments control the transfers to the same minimum international standards.”
“This ultimately would stop weapons being sent to areas where they will fuel conflict and undermine development.”
He speaks with such passion that it is hard to not feel what this man has went through. “Eight million small arms are being produced every year without strict control. The absence of such controls means arms travel far too easily reaching conflict zones and end users who are willing to abuse that weapon.”
“The Arms Trade Treaty would slow down the flow of arms, turn off the tap so to speak, and over time we would find fewer weapons on the black market.”
Having already travelled to London in the last week, this weekend he is heading out to America to attend a UN conference on the 18th of March: “On Saturday I travel to New York to attend the final negotiations at the United Nations where a draft text was created at the last talks.”
He explains that although there is now a text in place for the treaty, there is still work to be done. “The text is a good starting place but there are many loopholes within that need to be closed in order for a treaty that is going to transform the arms trade industry to be effective.”
There is a lot to be admired about this man. We can only hope that after ten years something will finally be done about tightening gun laws in every single country. Time will only tell if hope is enough.