As the terrifying spread of the forest fires raging in Turkey’s southeastern province of Dersim (Tunceli) has been documented by numerous video recordings, criticism has been voiced at the total absence of government attempts to stop the fires.
The first fire in the province started on 17 August in the Ovacik-Hozat region, quickly spreading and approaching a number of villages.
The mayor of Dersim, Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu, said on 28 August that they had been met with a negative reaction from the state officials when they tried to organise firefighting teams of volunteers. He also indicated in an interview on Arti TV that there were also claims that the fires were started as a result of military actions.”I’ve met with villagers two days ago,” he said. “There was an announcement by the city administration before that. It said that there were some security-related issues in the area. What the villagers told me was that there could have been clashes nearby. There were loud bangs, they said that they had heard something and that the fire started straight afterwards.”
The same day Mayor Maçoğlu shared a video of the fires on Twitter, indicating that there were no firefighting teams in the area as the camera clearly showed the spread of the fires across the dense oak forests.
“The fire is raging towards the houses of Buzlutepe village. There are no firefighting teams around,” he said on the video.
He then tweeted and shared another video on 29 August saying that an aerial firefighting attempt finally took place on the 12th day of the fire.
He shared a video early on 30 August showing a team of volunteers struggling to stop the spread of another fire in an area near the Munzur Valley, a unique habitat of wildlife.
A video by Mesopotamia News Agency showed a deer trying to escape the fire.
As a delegation of two MPs from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and co-chair of the Democratic Regions Party (BDP) continued to work to organise volunteer firefighting teams in the region, the chair of the Centre for Research in Dersim, Selman Yeşilgöz, protested at the country’s social apathy regarding fires in Kurdish-majority provinces, Mesopotamia News Agency reports.
“Those who encourage and urge volunteers to take action against wildfires in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions, yet are deaf dumb and blind when it comes to fires in the Kurdish-majority regions,” he said.