Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Aug. 7 called activists and villagers, who have been protesting the cutting of trees in Akbelen Forest for the expansion of the coal mining site in southern Muğla province’s İkizköy district, “environmentalist-looking marginals.”
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Erdoğan said “Akbelen Thermal Power Plant, which produces almost two-thirds of the electricity used in the South Aegean, is a national asset for our country. It must continue to operate with coal. While there is no objection to the increase of coal production in Europe, provocative actions are carried out in Turkey in the name of tree love.”
Erdoğan said he “cannot explain the protest” of the activists “with the love of trees.”
“We are not interested in environmentalist-looking marginals, we mind our business. I'm asking, how many olive trees have you planted so far? Come out and explain. We, as the AKP government, planted more than billions of trees. In the last 21 years, Turkey has planted 6 billion trees, breaking a record in this field,” the President added.
What had 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 refused to abide by these court rulings.
For the last two weeks, 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.