Gendarmerie block roads to stop activists from helping villagers in protest of mine project

A group of villagers on May 12 protested a mining company's attempt to expand its premises in Kirazlıyayla village in Bursa and thereby cut trees. The gendarmerie forces blocked all the roads leading to the village to prevent activists from helping the villagers in their cause.

Duvar English

Turkish gendarmerie forces have blockaded all the roads leading to a village to stop activists from supporting Kirazlıyayla villagers who initiated a protest against a mining company's attempt to cut trees.

“There are so many gendarmerie officials. They put a blockade on the roads [leading to the village] two days ago. They are preventing the villagers from protecting their living space and detaining them. The whole village has been put under detention. And we were not let in,” Murat Demir, from the Nature and Environment Protection Association (DOĞADER), was quoted as saying by Evrensel.

The issue concerns Meyra Mining Company's attempt to expand its premises in the Kirazlıyayla village in the western province of Bursa. Early in April, the company started to cut down several trees in the area taking advantage of the coronavirus lockdown.

The company's attempt was at the time met with fierce protest by the villagers, leading to the Bursa governor's office to intervene and the company having to postpone its expansion project.

But, on May 12 the company resumed its activities, again facing a resistance from villagers. A group of activists from DOĞADER wanted to give support to the villagers' protest, but they were not let in the village by the gendarmerie.

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Nurhayat Altaca Kayışoğlu was at the scene of the protest to show her support for the villagers, stepping in front of construction machinery.

The CHP deputy's journalist husband Yusuf Kayışoğlu was also at the scene. The gendarmerie forces tried to prevent the journalist from recording the protest on his mobile phone and then detained him. After a brief detention, the journalist was later released.

“They are bringing construction equipment to our pasture areas, which we even do not have the heart for our goats to grass on. We are not against the state, but we are against this mining company. They have even shut down our roads leading to agricultural areas. Is this justice?” villagers said, adding that they were being treated “as if they were terrorists.”

“We call on to the officials, they should hear us. We are not terrorists,” villagers said, once again emphasizing that they do not want a mining company to operate in their village.

The villagers' protest eventually paid off, with authorities agreeing to temporarily halt the mining company's attempt to expand its premises at the site. The villagers thanked CHP deputy Kayışoğlu and his journalist husband, bidding them farewell with applauds.

Activist Şafak Erdem, a council member of the Yenişehir district from the CHP, had announced in April that they were giving a legal fight to stop the mining company from building tailing impoundments in the area -- which are structures for the storage and deposit of residues that result from the process of mineral extraction.

"The issue is not mining. That mine has been there for many years. But now they are trying to build a mineral processing plant and tailing impoundments on 110 decares of land. These will be only 200 meters away to the villagers' houses, 50 meters to the cemeteries where their grandfathers are buried. And the area on which trees were cut were villagers' pasture lands," Erdem was quoted as saying by Yenişehir Yörem newspaper in April.