There appears to be a deliberate attempt by the Turkish government to eradicate everything associated with Kurdish identity, said Ahmet Başak from Green Left Party on Wednesday, drawing attention to accelerating deforestation in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast since 2019, particularly in the Şırnak (Şırnex) provinces and the neighbouring Besta region.
Military logging, which Turkey cites as a part of anti-terrorism efforts, began two years ago within the Mount Cudi area. 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.
Başak evoked memories of the 1990s when Turkish security forces ignited forests and villages during the height of the Kurdish conflict, stating, “They used to burn before, now they are also cutting down,” likening this deforestation policy to a covert form of warfare. Current deforestation befalls restricted military areas where villages were torched and evacuated in the 1990s.
The ongoing tree felling operations have also sparked wildfires in several areas. The most recent fire occurred in a village in the Baykan (Hawêl) district in Şırnak, which was extinguished after 15 hours. Reports indicate that the fire started when a cigarette butt discarded next to a fuel-operated saw ignited the blaze.
During an on-site inspection of the deforested and fire-affected areas, Sabahat Erdoğan Sarıtaş, a Member of Parliament from the Green Left Party, noted that the Omyanis village in the Besta region, which once housed over 100 households, has dwindled to merely 12 due to state pressure.
Sarıtaş highlighted various challenges faced by villagers, ranging from access to clean water to issues of sewage and infrastructure, stating, “The region is being depopulated. While they may not be forcibly removed like in the 1990s through village burnings, they are being left without a living space and are being coerced into migration.”