The inhabitants of the Akbelen forest in southwestern Turkey are not giving up. They literally cling to the trees, with the aim of protecting them from the deforestation that the Turkish company YK Energy, close to the Government, would like to carry out; a land of about 780 acres which, if it weren’t for the stubbornness of the citizens, would have already been razed to the ground – as has happened in the last 35 years to 8 villages in the area – to allow an already existing coal mine to expand further; a tenacity that has not stopped even under the blows of batons and tear gas, tools that the Turkish gendarmerie has used in an attempt to remove the activists.
By Gloria Ferrari
Local resistance has been going on for a long time now. Already in July 2021, forest operators hired by YK Energy had cut down 30 trees, despite the fact that the First Administrative Court of Muğla had ruled that no one could proceed with the clearing until the final closure of the case. Since then, the local population has watched over the forest relentlessly, intensifying controls since the end of 2022, when a report drawn up by court-appointed experts established that Akbelen could be considered a forest suitable for mining. [This report came] with the consequent revocation of the temporary stop to cutting trees, which the company began to throw down from 24 July ; Date from which the clashes between the police – who have even deployed armored vehicles – and demonstrators have intensified.
On the other hand, YK Energy would be willing to do anything: for the company, expanding the coal mine is essential to keep the power stations present in the area alive – this material supplies over a quarter of Turkey’s primary energy and its industry generates over a third of the country’s electricity.
“As tens of thousands of people across the Mediterranean region flee raging fires caused by the climate crisis, it is incomprehensible that a company is allowed to destroy a forest – one of our most important carbon sinks – to expand a coal mine. », commented an activist. Especially if it is that of Akbelen, an important habitat for the reproduction, nesting and supply of a great variety of bird species, including protected ones.
But according to YK Energy, which rejects all the accusations, its commitment “since 1987 has been to make the most of local resources, which can help Turkey meet energy demand and contribute to the economy and well-being. Our mining activities meet international standards and are part of the company’s vision of sustainability».
In response, the activists launched an online petition to underline that “we have been driven from our homes, they have taken away our land and water, they have polluted the air we breathe, they have made us sick and die. We no longer want to sacrifice our nature and our living spaces and give more years of our lives to coal. We claim our right to speak out for our future!”