In a significant show of unity against environmental degradation, thousands converged in Turkey’s Akbelen on Sunday, marking the 16th day of resistance against YK Energy’s coal field expansion in the Akbelen forest.
Responding to a call from İkizkoy Environmental Committee, a local initiative coordinated the protest efforts. Attendees were met with applause and slogans as they arrived, forming a three-kilometre human chain symbolising unity against the environmental threats. The gathering, a testament to the region’s commitment to preserving its natural heritage, was punctuated by performances from artists such as Siya Siyabend and Praksis.
Despite the heavy police and gendarmerie presence, the large gathering began with vibrant singing and dancing. However, tensions arose when attendees faced multiple identity checks at control points, leading to confrontations. Representatives of Turkey’s opposition parties, including the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Labour Party (EMEP) and Republican People’s Party (CHP), were also present at the gathering.
HDP Buca District Co-chair Nurşen Ataman passionately addressed the attendees. “I am from Cudi, I came from Cudi. I urge all of you to support Cudi. As a Kurdish woman, I have always supported you. Now, I expect the same support from you. Let’s fight this battle together,” she said.
The protest coincided with the 21st Munzur Culture and Nature Festival in Dersim, which shed light on the challenges posed by mining activities. Festival panel discussions were dominated by concerns over the impact of mining on the local economy, agriculture, and beekeeping. Key figures from Dersim’s economic and agricultural sectors called for sustainable practices, emphasising the adverse effects of mining and the importance of supporting local businesses and agriculture.
Amid the on-going protests and debate, a new video surfaced, adding fuel to rising concerns over the forest fires. The footage, believed to be from the Cudi region of Şırnak, shows a soldier seemingly admitting to using hand grenades to set forests ablaze, with the caption, ‘We will burn all the mountains like this; we’ll leave nothing standing until the PKK is wiped out.’
A group of representatives from various environmental and human rights organisations undertook an on the ground assessment of the ongoing tree felling and sporadic forest fires. The team, led by the Mezopotamya Ecology Movement, were prevented from inspecting a recent fire site by a local military post citing security concerns.
Despite the setback, HDP Ecology Assembly spokeswoman Menekşe Kızıldere said that a detailed report on findings of the assessment would be released in coming days. The inspection team made a public statement in a village located in the foothills of Mount Cudi, unveiling a banner that read “End the ecological massacres and tree slaughters.”