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Akbelen in peril: Energy company destroys forest for coal as activists flood to defend trees

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Thousands of trees in Akbelen Forest in southwestern Turkiye have been destroyed since Monday to expand a coal mine nearby as the tension between activists and the gendarmerie forces continues to fluctuate.

Located in İkizköy village in the Aegean province of Muğla, Akbelen Forest has been occupied by the residents of the village as well as ecology activists for over two years to prevent ecocide in the area and defend the trees from the energy company that runs the coal mine.

Hundreds of ecology activists from across Turkiye flooded to Akbelen Forest to stop the cutting down of the trees upon the entrance of the logging crew into the forest.

Meanwhile, the gendarmerie set up barricades to prevent the activists from accessing the area where tree-cutting was being conducted.

Akbelen

The activists attempted multiple times to pass the gendarmerie’s barricades to stop logging. The gendarmerie intervened twice by force with activists, using pepper gas, batons, shields, and water cannons.

Several people were reported to be injured during the incident, and 65-year-old Havva Ova was hospitalized due to the impact of pressurized water and pepper gas. She was discharged from the hospital and joined the protests in Akbelen Forest again the next day.

Seven people including İsmail Hakkı Atal, the volunteering attorney conducting the legal cases regarding Akbelen Forest, and the member of İkizköy Environmental Committee Hasan Yorulmaz were taken into custody to be released later in the day.

As part of a civil disobedience protest, the activists passing the gendarmerie’s barrier occupied the trees to prevent tree cutting on Wednesday. As activists were forced to leave the area, the residents of İkizköy reported that several people were taken into custody by gendarmerie forces.

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More on Akbelen Forest

YK Energy, a joint affiliate of IC Holding and Limak Holding, which is known to have close ties with the Turkish government, intended to cut down the trees in the 740-decare section of the Akbelen Forest to expand a coal mine that would provide lignite to the Yeniköy and Kemerköy thermal power plants.

Although the company had obtained the permissions required, the residents of İkizköy, environmental activists, and lawyers objected to the destruction of the forest through lawsuits and by actively occupying Akbelen for over two years.

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