AKP, MHP deputies vote down proposal for inquiry into cutting of trees in Akbelen

The AKP and MHP rejected the proposal to discuss cutting of trees in Akbelen Forest for the expansion of the mine site in the Turkish Parliament. Protester villagers also came to the capital Ankara for the extraordinary parliamentary session.

Villagers bring their local natural products to the Turkish Parliament.

Duvar English

The General Assembly of the Turkish Parliament on Aug. 8 convened in an extraordinary session to discuss the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) motion for a general discussion on the activities at the mining site in Muğla province’s İkizköy village and the ongoing protests. 

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) MPs entered the plenary hall after it was determined that a quorum had been reached for holding an extraordinary session.

Following the speeches from the parties, the request for a general discussion was rejected by AKP and MHP votes.

A general debate is a non-binding discussion in the general assembly on a specific issue of interest to society and state activities. Since the since the parliament is in recess until Oct. 1, an extraordinary meeting should be convened first to vote for whether there will be general discussions or not.

The villagers who have been protesting against the mining company that cut down thousands of trees to expand the mining site also came to capital Ankara before the session. Environmentalists, villagers, and civil society organizations made a joint statement and went to the parliament to follow the meeting.

Villagers meet civil society organizations in Ankara before the parliament's meeting.

Before the general assembly session, villagers attended the CHP’s parliamentary group meeting. 

During the CHP’s meeting, Nejla Işık from Akbelen took the floor and made a speech about what is happening in the village and accounted their four years of struggle. “Are you ready to come to the forest and stand in front of the water cannons along with us? I am here to take your word for it,” she said. 

Nejla Işık speaks at the parliament.

Işık also reacted to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who reffered villagers as “marginals” a day before and said, "The marginals are here, you see. Their feet have never seen anything other than nylon socks and nylon shoes. We are the children of ancestors who shed their blood in the Independence War. We are not afraid, we are not silent, we do not obey.” 

Afterward, party’s chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu took the stage and said "You (President Erdoğan) shamelessly declare those who stand by their forests, animals and flowers as marginal. The government itself become marginalized in the hands of few."

In the parliament's extraordinary session, Bülent Kaya from the Felicity Party made the first speech. Kaya highlighted a significant shift and stated that Turkey issued 1,168 mining licenses from 1923 until the AKP's rise to power in 2003. However, between 2003 and 2019, that number soared to approximately 150,000.

Far-right MHP's Erkan Akçay, on the other hand, accused the opposition for “creating chaos” after they lost the elections, “We see that those who have lost hope in the ballot box and want to cover up their internal fights are trying to create chaos by stirring up the streets, scratching social issues, and trying to create a Gezi Park uprising from Akbelen. It is clear that their main goal is not trees."

After the speeches from the political parties, the opposition's demand for a general discussion was rejected with 281 votes against 244.

What happened?

Since 2019, the 740-decare Akbelen Forest and the İkizköylü village have been threatened by plans to extend coal mines. In 2021, the 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 rejected to abide by these court rulings.

Since July 24, the tree cutting process has been accelerated and those who protest against it saw the harsh attack of the gendarmerie teams regardless of their age. 

The gendarmerie have been attacking activists and villagers by using pepper spray in the faces of them from close range and firing gas cartridges in the forested area during scorching heat.