Turkish gendarmerie continue to protect mining company in Akbelen Forest, batter villagers

Turkish gendarmerie on June 29 continued to attack and beat the villagers protesting the mining company in Akbelen Forest. One environmentalist suffered head trauma during the gendarmerie attack; at least 22 people were detained during the day.

Cihan Başakcıoğlu / Gazete Duvar

The felling of trees in Akbelen Forest in Muğla province’s Milas district to open a coal quarry on July 29 reached the camping point of villagers and environmentalists who have been protesting against the mining company. 

Gendarmerie and police surrounded the tents of the villagers at dawn before the cutting of trees started. No one was allowed to enter or leave the area, and those who came from other provinces to support protestors were attacked with police water cannon vehicles (TOMA).

The authorities detained 18 people, including locals’ lawyers İsmail Hakkı Atal and Leyla Bilgen, when they tried to enter the blockaded area. The gendarmerie attacked those who wanted to prevent the felling of trees with water cannons and tear gas. 

One person suffered head trauma, and another fainted after being attacked by the gendarmerie.

On the other hand, the gendarmerie closed many roads leading to Akbelen Forest. The villagers then called everyone to come to the forest and blocked the road where the cut trees were transported by trucks.

Hours later, the gendarmerie lifted the blockade in the forest but wanted to carry out identity checks at the entrances and exits. Those who opposed the control were attacked with pepper gas and batons. At least 4 people were beaten and detained.

TOMAs directly attacked four people with water cannons. In the background, forest fire fighting vehicles are waiting to supplement water to the TOMAs.

Other villagers from the province also began to march in the evening to support those who were keeping vigil against the felling in Akbelen Forest. Villagers have been sharing walking routes for those who want to support them.

The pro-government newspapers, on the other hand, printed various articles in the same tone justifying the attacks and blaming villagers for being “provocateurs” as they did in every social movement for the past years. 

According to villagers, the company has cut down thousands of trees in the forest since July 24.

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.