Akbelen protestor becomes village head in western Turkey

Nejla Işık, a representative of the villagers’ resistance in western Turkey’s Akbelen Forest, was elected as the village head (mukhtar) in the local elections of March 31.

Duvar English

The İkizköy village in Turkey’s western Muğla province has elected Nejla Işık as its local head in the elections of March 31. Işık has been a part of the resistance against the destruction of the Akbelen Forest for a fossil fuel plant. 

Işık becomes the first woman mukhtar of the village. She said it was not hers, but the village's collective victory, in an interview with the online news outlet Bianet. 

Işık became a village head candidate upon the joint decision of the İkizköy Environmental Committee to “protect the village from surrendering to a coal mine.” 

Village and neighborhood heads are elected along with the mayors and municipal council members during Turkish local elections. The elected representatives serve five-year terms and serve as the smallest elected officials. 

Their duties include organizing residents’ official documents and communicating villagers’ demands and grievances to higher officials. 

Since 2019, the 740-decare Akbelen Forest and the İkizköylü village have been threatened by plans to extend coal mines by companies with close ties to the Turkish government.

The villagers and environmental activists have maintained a strong resistance to the company’s attempts to cut down trees to clear land for the project. Locals filed a lawsuit against the company YK Energy, a joint affiliate of IC Holding and Limak Holding, which is known to have close ties with the Turkish government, for the annulment of the project.

During the judiciary process, courts have several times ruled for the suspension of the coal mine project, but the company refused to abide by these court rulings.

Village residents faced repression and were teargassed by the rural police force during their resistance to the Turkish public’s dismay.