Mount Cudi, located in Şırnak (Şirnex), a Kurdish-majority city in the south-eastern Turkey, became the centre of a heated dispute as political parties, democratic mass organisations, and ecology groups rallied together on 31 July to protest against ongoing deforestation and sporadic forest fires. The protest, led by the Free Women’s Movement (TJA), faced police intervention, as the authorities refused to allow the march to proceed.
The protest was sparked by allegations that Turkish soldiers deliberately started fires on Mount Cudi, with a video allegedly showing the mountain in flames.
The demonstration also voiced opposition to the militarisation of the natural environment in Kurdish areas and Kurdish people, with a de facto ban on civilians entering and leaving certain rural areas in Bitlis province following military operations. The Bitlis region in question faced a Special Security Zone declaration, and despite the ban being officially lifted, a military blockade remains with reports of tree uprooting for road construction.
Despite the peaceful nature of yesterday’s protest, the police cordoned off the Green Left Party’s district office in Silopi (Silopiya) and unequivocally denied permission for the march.
In response to the police’s refusal, the protesters made a public statement in front of the district office. The Green Left Şırnak MP Newroz Uysal Aslan emphasised the significance of the ongoing ecological destruction, not only in Kurdistan but also worldwide. The MP criticised the policies of the Turkish government, stating that they part of “long-standing” policies targeting Kurdish people and their natural environment, in order to depopulate Kurdish areas.
“This is isolation; it is a siege. The isolation initiated in İmralı [Turkish prison island where PKK leader Öcalan is held under isolation] is still ongoing. We do not accept the war policies carried out in the geography of Kurdistan today. From here to Akbelen, to Mereş, we will continue our struggle. Neither Cudi, nor Gabar, nor Akbelen is alone. Our struggle will continue for these places. We condemn the policies implemented in Kurdistan and other cities,” Uysal added.
Environmentalist Murad Bilgiç, speaking on behalf of the Mesopotamia Ecology Movement (MEH), called for an investigation into ecological destruction in Kurdistan.
“We will resist under all circumstances to protect life. We are here, these mountains, these trees are here. Tomorrow these trees, these forests will be here, you will not be. As the Mesopotamian Ecological Movement, we call on all nature lovers: there is ecological destruction in Kurdistan, let’s investigate together who is carrying this out,” he said.