The villagers have been resisting the stone quarry project for a week. Cengiz Construction -one of the biggest construction companies in the country with known close ties with the ruling Justice and Development Party AKP government- is reportedly behind the project that is proceeding in the region.
The valley where the quarrying is to take place is a ‘nature site and a protected area’, reportedly one of the 200 priority areas to be protected in the world. However, the project commenced on 21 April after a presidential decree for urgent expropriation in the İşkencedere Valley area was issued. Approximately 16 million tons of stones are planned to be dug and purchased from the region. The villager’s vigil against this project has been continuing for a week despite the obstructive actions and continuous attacks by the gendarmerie.
Pervin Baş is one of the villagers who has been participating in the vigil. “I have to protest against it since I cannot cook anything for my children if this construction proceeds”, she told MA, summarising her reasons for her protest. “We do not have access to fresh water since all our water supply has stopped since they started construction”.
Baş continued: “We are in Ramadan (the holy month of fasting for the Islamic Calendar). This is the month of solidarity but we have been suffering too much: there are 15 people in my family and what are we going to do without water? We cannot breed or tend our animals either like this. What will we do? They were not letting us even cut one tree, but now they have destroyed and are destroying the whole forest”.
Emine Tursun is another villager who is participating in the vigil. Since the gendarmerie has placed barricades on the normal roads they use, she had to take a long hard road through the mountains to arrive at the region where the project is to be built.
“Animals cannot pass the ways that we passed to arrive here to protect our nature from them. We do not want them to destroy our nature”, Tursun said. “Our bees, our tea trees, our everything is here. Let them see our nature. If this place is worthy of a quarry, let them do it. But they shouldn’t send us away from our village. Even if they give us villas, we want our village, not anything else”.
Tursun’s home was also damaged due to the dynamite explosions taking place during the tunneling and building construction taking place for the project. “Those explosions are contributing to so much damage to our the village. Our water supply all comes from the affected region: what will happen to it after the explosions?”, she asked.
Fatma Baş thinks that their villages were taken from them and given to Cengiz Construction, a massive construction company, which has been the target of several local environmental protests in Turkey due to their reportedly scandalous projects. Baş said: “We have a place to drink tea here and they take it from our hands. They can’t get enough! They took our water, our tea, our meadows: whatever else are they going to take from us? Let them make the poor poorer and the rich richer by taking everything we have from us”.
Asuman Fazlıoğlu referred to the government’s statement that suggested that the project would be good for economic growth. “They claim that our economy will improve through the project. It has nothing to do with that: we do not believe them, it is just to make Cengiz Construction richer. The government is supporting that but a country cannot be governed like that”, she said.
Müjdat Albayrak, another protestor, said: “We will not give up resisting despite all the barricades they put in our way. Previously, the state was protecting the forest. Now we protect the forest from the state. There are wild animals in this valley. What will happen to them? They will all die. Here, we also produce 2.5 tons of honey and chestnut honey annually. Our demand is to stop this savagery”.