Vecdi Erbay / DUVAR

Fires have raged in the Cudi Mountains in the province of Şırnak in southeastern Turkey amid claims that the blazes erupted due to deliberate military operations in the area. The fires have also spread to the nearby Gabar and Besta Mountain ranges, burning the mountains to a dry crisp. 

Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Şırnak deputy Hasan Özgüneş organised a three-day demonstration in the area, where resident sat down in protest of what they say is the refusal on the part of the authorities to combat the fires.  

A group of ecologists from the provinces of Ankara, Diyarbakır, Dersim and Mardin came to Şırnak to conduct research on the ongoing fires, and have stated that they will prepare a report to share their findings with the public.

“As a delegation, we had the opportunity to make observations in Şırnak in areas that we were able to reach. We were not given permission to see other places on the pretext of security. We encountered a heartbreaking pillage of nature. We observed that Cudi is now in the form of a dry mountain, whereas previously the soil was not visible due to the density of the forest,” said ecologist Asrın Keleş from the People’s Democratic Congress (HDK). 

Keleş said that it was abundantly clear that the fires did not erupt due to natural causes. 

“The information we obtained from interviews indicated that this is a situation that has been ongoing for quite some time, even for years. We had long conversations with the people of the region and visited many villages. We received information that the forests were being shot with gunfire at night,” Keleş said, adding that local security forces had burned down areas enabling pedestrian crossing. 

The fires have resulted in many villagers losing their livelihoods, as they have destroyed trees growing wild pears and hackberries that were looked after closely and were considered to yield produce not found anywhere else in the country. 

Keleş called upon ecologists and ecological institutions to stand together against environmental destruction everywhere in Turkey.