Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) Istanbul Ecology Council calls on all environmental organisations to join the protest in Mount Cudi on 17 September against the deforestation that has been going on in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast, particularly in the Şırnak (Şırnex) provinces and the neighbouring Besta region since 2019.
Turkish security forces collaborated with village guards on extreme tree-cutting missions to cut down approximately 500,000 tons of trees in the restricted military areas, according to an exclusive report from Mezopotamya Agency. In 2021 alone, military logging destroyed approximately 8 percent of the region’s forests, Şırnak bar association figures indicate.
Volkan Bulut from HDK İstanbul Ecology Council said that Turkey was trying to depopulate the region, pointing to the environmental pillaging caused by the conflict.
Civilians are not allowed to enter restricted military areas where the logging occurs. While emphasising that the war-oriented perspective destroyed the land due to security policies, Bulut said, “The village guards sell the lumber,” and drew attention to the profit-generating dimension of military logging. “The question of whether local authorities can decide the fate of the natural assets or whether the people of the region who have lived there for centuries should have a say, is important,” he said.
Calling for the Cudi march organised by the Democratic Society Congress (DTK), Free Women’s Movement (TJA), Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Democratic Regions Party (DBP) and Mezopotamya Ecology Movement, Bulut also cited hydroelectric power plants in Black Sea waters, burned olive groves on the Aegean coast, and mines destroying soils country-wide, as consequences of Turkish government’s non-ecological policies.
Deforestation around Mount Cudi: 2019 to date
Military logging as a part of Turkey’s anti-terrorism efforts began two years ago within the Mount Cudi area. This deforestation befalls restricted military areas where villages were torched and evacuated in the 1990s, at the height of Turkey’s conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In recent years, logging activity has completely destroyed woodland that had already suffered irretrievable damage from years of mining and the incendiary effects of military operations.
There are up to 400 loggers consisting of village guards and their relatives in the region. The villagers and landowners told Mezopotamya Agency that head guard Hazım Babat, an alleged member of Turkey’s counter-insurgency in the 1990s, was the one who organised the loggers.
After the HDP Şırnak Provincial Organisation staged a protest against deforestation in September 2020, the Şırnak Ecology Platform submitted a request to meet with the governor and other officials. Requests were unanswered.
The Şırnak bar association twice pressed charges of deforestation against the chief public prosecutor’s office. The first indictment was nol-prossed on the grounds that there had been no clear and convincing evidence. The appeal against the verdict was also dismissed. The second indictment process with new evidence continues.