Turkish gendarmerie evacuates villagers watching Akbelen Forest amid tree cutting concerns

Turkish gendarmerie intervened in the protest of the villagers against the extension of the mine in Akbelen Forest and removed the tents in the area. While the villagers said that new trees would be cut down, the governorship denied these “allegations.”

Duvar English

While villagers were continuing their vigil against the extension of coal mine in Akbelen Forest, located in Aegean Muğla province’s İkizköy district, the Turkish gendarmerie on Sep. 12 entered the area in the morning hours and dismantled the tents. 

All the materials used by the protesters loaded on the lorry brought to the vigil area were delivered to the local Forestry Directorate. While entry and exit to the forest area was barred, checkpoints were set up on the highway in the district.

The villagers stated that one person was detained during the intervention.

People in the area also stated that they had problems in communication due to the signal jammers brought to the area.

Necla Işık from the İkizköy Environment Committee said, "There is no tree cutting yet. However, the gendarmerie evacuated the tents and all of our belongings. They will probably start cutting as soon as possible after they evacuate the area.”

Muğla Governor’s Office stated that the “allegation” about the cutting of trees were "baseless" and that there would be no new tree cutting. 

"The containers and tents set up without permission in the area under the responsibility of the Regional Directorate of Forestry and on privately owned land are removed by taking necessary security measures,” the governor’s office said. 

The governor’s office added that these works were carried out on "application of the private property owner".

Women and the elderly are very active in the protests.

İsmail Hakkı Atal, the lawyer of the villagers, said that the vigil area was given free of charge to the association established by the villagers by the 93-year-old man who cannot go outside from the village.

The lawyer stated that even if it was true that the villager had complained as the governor’s office claimed, the association had the priority right on the land and that the governor's statement was "unlawful.” 

Later, the landowner denied the statement of the governor's office and filed a petition to the district governor to state he has never demanded the evacuation of the area.

What happened?

Since 2019, the 740-decare Akbelen Forest and the İkizköy 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 three 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. According to villagers, the company has cut down thousands of trees in the forest since July 24.

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.