A forest fire that erupted on Wednesday in the foothills of Mount Cudi (Çiyayê Cûdî), in Turkey’s southeast, has been left unchecked as authorities stand accused by locals of starting the fire and preventing attempts to extinguish the blaze.
The devastating fire, which break out on the mountain between the Silopi (Silopî) and Cizre (Cizîr) districts of the Kurdish-majority Şırnak (Şirnex) province, has spread rapidly across a vast area, with smoke billowing into the town of Silopi.
Local sources told Mezopotamya Agency that the fire was intentionally ignited by Turkish military personnel in the region. The area where the fire originated is reportedly in close proximity to a military outpost. Despite the escalating situation, there have been no official efforts to combat the inferno, and civilians have been barred from attempting to douse the flames.
Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) urged immediate action in response to the fire on Thursday while confirming that civilians have been prevented from attempting to combat the fire.
“Those who have been waging a systematic war against our nature have been destroying the ecosystem with forest fires for years. The fire that started in Mount Cudi and was left without intervention is a continuation of hostile policies against the Kurdish people,” the statement read.
The Mount Cudi area is known for its rich biodiversity, and the uncontrolled fire poses a significant threat to the diverse flora and fauna inhabiting the area.
The authorities have yet to issue an official statement regarding the allegations of deliberate fire-starting or the reported restrictions on public intervention.
Fire reignites concerns over deforestation and environmental impact
Environmentalists and Kurdish activists have been fighting against the Turkish government’s deforestation of Kurdish-majority southeastern regions, including Mount Cudi, since 2019. Turkey justifies the deforestation as military logging under on-going anti-terrorism operations.
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, the area’s forests that had already suffered irretrievable damage from the incendiary effects of military operations and years of mining have faced further destruction from logging.
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 2022 report. Şırnak bar association had announced prior that in 2021 alone, military logging destroyed approximately 8 percent of the region’s forests.
As flames continue to rage on Mount Cudi, fears mount over the potential long-term impact on the environment and the livelihoods of those living in the vicinity. The affected regions are home to a number of Kurdish villages, and the fire’s spread raises the possibility of further displacement and destruction of property.