Construction of a new Kalekol* military base near the village of Sağgöze in Turkey’s prominently Kurdish southeastern Bingöl province, has closed local roads and forested areas, causing distress among villagers and raising environmental concerns due to the felling of thousands of trees.
Locals said, “We are citizens of this country. If we live here, we have to graze our animals. How are we supposed to live like this?”
Village head Nevzat Akay said he had objected to the construction after speaking with the regiment commander and major. However, Akay had felt helpless when he found that the military had obtained permission for the work from the General Directorate of Forestry.
“I’ve spoken to them multiple times, but they said, ‘Don’t bring [your livestock] near this area.'” Akay added that locals were afraid of assassination attempts.
Sırım Basin Association President Emin Turhallı also questioned the decision to build the base in a forested area. “They initially told us it would be built in a treeless area. Where do they get the right to destroy these forests?” He added that the construction restricted people’s movement within the villages and halved the yield for beekeepers in the area.
Mesopotamia Ecology Movement co-spokesperson Murat Bilgiç drew attention to the ecological destruction caused by the construction of military bases. “These bases are not providing security in Kurdistan; they have become a security problem. All resources are being destroyed. It’s an eco-crime,” he said.
The construction has also raised suspicions about mining activities in the area. “When they first came, the villagers asked why they were here. It turns out they had identified the presence of minerals here seven years ago. Usually, this is how it goes: first, they build a military base, cut down the trees, take over the area, and then a company comes and starts mining, destroying nature,” Turhallı added.
According to environmental historian Zozan Pehlivan, the construction of such military bases is part of a larger ideological engineering plan that aims to displace local populations and control natural resources. Pehlivan suggests that these constructions are intricately linked with complex socio-political relationships and are part of a broader social engineering project that puts ecology at the centre.
(*) “Kalekol” refers to a specifically fortified type of military outpost or station constructed in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, especially in rural areas. It is a combination of the words “kale” (fortress) and “-kol” from “karakol” (police station). These structures are typically established not only for security control but also for surveillance activities in the surroundings.