Battle to safeguard nature in rural Turkey

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In addition they arrange guard tents, claiming that there was no state of struggle that will permit Erdoğan to make a direct expropriation resolution for the valley. They might not hand over their valley to anybody, and they’d battle towards the devastation of their habitats till the very finish.

On the primary day, greater than 50 villagers, together with many aged girls, from the villages of Gürdere and Cevizlik, that are situated across the İşkencedere Valley, sat in entrance of heavy equipment as scores of gendarmerie had been introduced in to take away them.  

The ladies of the valley walked for hours day by day by means of the dense, thorn-filled forests with sticks of their arms to achieve the development web site. The protests heated up as villagers defied a strict weekend lockdown to confront Cengiz Holding and the gendarmerie, utilizing beehives to dam the valley’s entrance and climbing to the timber to stop them from being felled.  


Nonetheless, president Erdoğan is twenty years into his rule and now not tolerates protests, besides these led by his supporters. So it was a standard sight when the gendarmerie used extreme power to quash the demonstrations.

Throughout the next days, which noticed hundred-year-old timber being uprooted and thrown into the streams utilized by the villagers for ingesting water, there was a extreme assault on the protestors, and footage of elderly women rolling down the hill after the gendarmerie pushed them with their shields was launched by means of social media.

The gendarmerie additionally used pepper spray and detained many males, prompting girls to climb close by timber and perch aloft for a number of hours. At occasions, excavators delivered to assemble the quarry street had been used to throw stones on the villagers.  

“We needed to go there straight away,” Eren Dağıstanlı, an environmentalist, informed The Ecologist a latest interview. When the protests started, he was in a close-by district, attending the trial over the killing of retired trainer Metin Lokumcu, who died after being pepper-sprayed whereas protesting towards hydroelectric energy crops within the area.

Dağıstanlı was current in the course of the protests in İkizdere, and now considers the villagers to be household. “Be it the development of a hydroelectric energy plant or a stone quarry – everybody round right here has suffered from this a technique or one other, so we all the time rush to assist. This behaviour is widespread within the Japanese Black Sea area.”

With much more individuals touring from different cities, the protests grew stronger and fiercer, and this was vital for a wide range of causes. The demonstrations had been spearheaded by girls, who undertake the lion’s share of the day by day work within the village with little assist from their husbands.

Their brave pushback would win country-wide recognition, particularly because the outraged voices had erupted from Rize, the loyal dwelling province of President Erdoğan on the Black Beach.  


Inside days following the conflict in İkizdere, opposition politicians began arriving to lend their assist. They had been shortly adopted by Adil Karaismailoğlu, the minister of transport, who insisted that the deliberate port would deliver jobs and prosperity to the area.

Disregarding the villagers’ complaints, he said that the positioning of the quarry could be rehabilitated afterward. Villagers and their supporters, nevertheless, weren’t satisfied since they’d witnessed the ecological hurt attributable to improvement tasks elsewhere. 

The villagers had chosen a walnut tree as their assembly place; they might collect round it and proceed their watch to guard the valley. “It was an attractive — lovely walnut tree,” Dağıstanlı tells The Ecologist. “They chased the villagers away and uprooted the walnut tree whereas they had been developing the street to the quarry. This, I imagine, was meant to intimidate them, and it was one of many final straws.” 

The protestors managed to stall the development machines for some time by utilizing paths solely identified by the villagers to achieve the realm — they name themselves the youngsters of the valley, in any case. As soon as they arrived, they laid themselves in entrance of the excavators. 

When it turned clear that the villagers wouldn’t again down with no battle, a big iron door was arrange within the entrance of the valley, and the gendarmerie, who had found the pathways the villagers took, blocked them from getting into the development web site. The final blow was the federal government imposing a breaking the curfew since withdrawing, and utilizing it to levy heavy fines. 


President Erdoğan spoke publicly concerning the İşkencedere protests for the primary time final September, stating that “all of the leftists and communists in Turkey are coming to İkizdere.” Erdoğan said: “You can not cease us. We’ll construct these amenities and roads. Your energy isn’t sufficient to cease us.” 

Whereas the bodily protests have largely died down, the villagers are nonetheless adamant about their case; they are saying they don’t oppose the deliberate port however insist that the stone for it may be quarried elsewhere fairly than destroying an space valued for its biodiversity.  

As an alternative, they need the tea manufacturing facility they had been as soon as promised by the federal government. Though the villagers are being blamed for being towards funding and improvement, they’ve been vocal about their wishes from day one. “There was a carcass constructing that was imagined to be transformed right into a tea manufacturing facility,” Dağıstanlı explains.

“Whereas they had been constructing the street, they demolished that constructing, too. Who’s the enemy of funding right here? They destroy the valley, then they name the villagers who earn their whole residing from it enemies of improvement. How is that truthful?” 

Muddy waters

Virtually one yr after the demonstrations, the destruction within the valley continues apace, regardless of an professional committee report exhibiting the environmental repercussions of the quarry.  

The frequent coming and going of vehicles carrying a great deal of stone and grime, routine explosions shaking properties, thick mud deciding on tree crops and fruit timber, and excavators digging into the valley have now drowned out the sound of birds and speeding streams beneath plantations.  

According to the latest estimations, 1.7 million tonnes of stones have already been taken, and the method will proceed at an accelerated tempo except the court docket decides to cease the destruction. 

Seven specialists have ready a report exhibiting that the venture would trigger irreversible harm to the İşkencedere Valley, which has been included in a lawsuit filed by the villagers and the İkizdere Surroundings Affiliation.

Tea crops

The report states that, within the Mission Introduction File ready by Cengiz Holding, there may be not sufficient info on the chance of landslides and the harm executed to water sources. 

There have been countless water issues for the reason that building started. Farmers who’ve all the time relied on the pristine water coming from the mountains to quench their thirst now say that they’ve needed to buy water from markets for the primary time because of the excavation muddying up the streams.  

Moreover, Dağıstanlı says that beekeeping, which is the first supply of earnings for a lot of villagers, will probably now not be attainable within the valley owing to excavation mud that has settled over crops, soil, and homes.

The mud has additionally affected the expansion price of the tea crops, making them develop slower and virtually not possible to correctly minimize and promote.  

In the meantime, the Rize Administrative Court docket has but to decide.  


“We’re in a 30-day ready interval,” Yakup Okumuşoğlu, an environmental lawyer who represents among the villagers, informed The Ecologist.

The court docket determined to acquire extra studies from the specialists earlier than issuing a verdict, and the specialists needed to request additional time for that, which signifies that the villagers and their legal professionals have to attend, despite the fact that it has been virtually a yr with the development persevering with at full throttle. 

“Sadly, we’ve discovered that we will now not make progress by submitting lawsuits,” Okumuşoğlu mentioned.

“Once you’re up towards the administration, and the venture is vital to the mentioned administration for no matter causes, you come to study that you simply simply can’t win these instances. The truth is, we’ve had lawsuits the place the keep order was issued after the constructions had been utterly completed.” 

Okumuşoğlu thinks that İkizdere is chosen as a result of it’s simpler to achieve the Rize port from there, which probably takes the prices down considerably.


This might clarify why Cengiz Holding, which is likely one of the ‘Huge 5’ firms which have dominated the Turkish financial system throughout AKP’s rule, insists on taking the stones from the İşkencedere Valley. To place that into context, the CEO of Cengiz Holding, Mehmet Cengiz, was worth $550 million in 2020

“This has develop into a vicious cycle, and folks understand it. Whether or not we win or lose, these we’re towards can do no matter they need. So our major purpose at this level is to lift public consciousness of the unlawfulness occurring on these mountains and expose the wrongdoings.

“We are attempting to doc in historical past that the plundering continues regardless of all these efforts.” 

Once I requested him about the way forward for the İkizdere case, he assured me that the case will certainly be gained.”We’ll win as a result of nothing they’ve executed matches the commitments they’ve made in their very own paperwork. However in follow, can we cease the destruction? Our arms are tied there.

“We’re only a handful of individuals confronting regulation enforcement and the state and making an attempt to avoid wasting no matter we will from destruction. We do not have the means to attain extra: we’re on the aspect that respects the regulation, and they’re on the aspect that doesn’t respect the regulation.”  


All of this turmoil and injustice is going down in a area vulnerable to devastating landslides and floods.  The emerald-green Black Sea highlands are endowed with a community of dozens of rivers and streams, and the Japanese Black Sea Area receives nearly all of Turkey’s rainfall.

Whereas the villagers have come to know once they’ll be hit with heavy rains, the quantity of rainfall has reportedly doubled through the years because of human-caused local weather change. 

The truth is, deathly floods have develop into all too widespread within the area because of poorly constructed and located buildings, together with these inside river valleys and on slender flood plains.

Dam building, mining tasks, and new highways have considerably reworked the area’s geography over the last twenty years, unleashing a collection of lethal disasters lately. 

Simply final yr, in August, because the southern coastal areas of Turkey had been engulfed in flames attributable to raging wildfires, the northern Black Sea area noticed the nation’s worst flash floods in years.

At least 82 people lost their lives to the unforgiving waters, whereas 228 had been injured and 16 individuals had been reported lacking. 


President Erdogan’s authorities pushes forward with quite a few massive tasks championed to generate progress and employment within the nation regardless of years of scientific findings, court docket selections halting tasks, and public opposition.

The federal government pledges to compensate individuals with cash and tends to place the blame on ‘destiny’ each time there’s a calamity and a lack of life because of these tasks.

Little motion has been taken to revive the pure stability and forestall future disasters even though additional investigation is promised after each catastrophe.

And people residing in villages surrounding the İşkencedere Valley worry that they could be the subsequent victims of this vicious cycle. 

“Can the İşkencedere Valley, which already shoulders so many tasks, bear this burden?” Dağıstanlı requested, however the reply is evident.


“They construct homes on creek beds, dig up the bottom and make quarries, and block the circulation of small rivers.

“A geographic area already suffering from a lot struggling can’t bear extra of this burden. We’ve seen it will possibly’t prior to now, and we’ll proceed to bear the implications.  

“If they’d inspected the stream banks as they mentioned they might, so many individuals wouldn’t have been killed within the 2021 floods,” Dağıstanlı continued.

“These individuals had been murdered by the mistaken improvement insurance policies within the creek mattress. Nobody can say that it was merely destiny or that it occurred solely as a result of it rained loads.

“They had been killed. In Hopa, the place I dwell, we misplaced eight individuals who had been pricey to us within the 2015 floods.” 


Dağıstanlı knowledgeable The Ecologist that two landslides occurred after the development started in İkizdere. A building machine additionally rolled into the creek, with a employee working it caught inside. Fortunately, nobody was wounded in any of those incidents. However this additional highlights how tasks that destroy nature additionally devalue the labor of the employees.

When firms determine they should end tasks earlier than environmental lawsuits are finalized, implementing well being and security measures for staff goes out the window, and exploitation is taken to a brand new, extra harmful stage. 

“From the individuals who gave permission for the tasks to those that’ve signed it, all of those that are making the most of the destruction of nature are responsible,” Dağıstanlı mentioned. “What occurs if there’s a lethal landslide or a flood in İkizdere? Who will reply for it? Nobody. They’ll most likely name it destiny.” 

It’s virtually April once more, and it will quickly be the anniversary of the beginning of the demonstrations within the İşkencedere Valley.

When spring arrives and the precise magnitude of the devastation is laid earlier than our eyes, nature will sound its warning, nevertheless it’ll be solely audible to those that hear — if solely they’ll hear it over the roar of the exploding dynamite.  

This Creator

Derya Özdemir is a author and editor based mostly in Turkey, who works to lift consciousness of local weather breakdown and ecological crimes. She tweets at @OzdDerya. This text has been revealed by means of the Ecologist Writers’ Fund. We ask readers for donations to pay some authors £200 for his or her work. Please make a donation now. You may study extra concerning the fund, and make an software, on our website.

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