The ecology activists defending Akbelen Forest in southwestern Turkiye called on the international community to take action and show solidarity with the forest defenders to stop the expansion of the coal mine run by YK Energy, a joint affiliate of IC Holding and Limak Holding, which is known to have close ties with the Turkish government.
Activists draw attention on the toll that climate crisis takes on the planet due to the burning of fossil fuels including coal, and call on the international community to raise their voice to defend Akbelen in the Aegean Muğla province.
Although tree-felling in the forest came to an end on Sunday (July 30), construction vehicles are still working on the cleared land to level the ground and open up roads for machines to turn the forest area it into a coal mine.
Unless stopped, the coal mine is supposed to destroy 37 more villages along with the forest areas near them, including İkizköy, which is home to Akbelen.
‘Spread the message to stop ecocide in Akbelen’
In a video message shot on the 9th day of the activists’ occupation of the forest, Levent Büyükbozkırlı with Climate Justice Coalition called on “everybody who relies on democracy” to stand up speak up for Akbelen Forest to prevent a massive ecocide that will displace hundreds of people and have disastrous impact on the climate, carbon sinks, water basins, air quality, as well as livelihoods such as agriculture, husbandry and beekeping.
The Coalition stated the following:
“Today is the 9th day of our struggle in Turkiye. We have been resisting at Akbelen forest in İkizköy village in Muğla city in order to prevent the extermination of this forest. The İctaş-Limak company aims to transform this forest into a coal mine for its thermal power plants. Yet the mine will not stop there and will continue to spread in agricultural areas, forests and olive groves. So we must absolutely maintain the Akbelen forest to protect the ecosystem of Muğla and to prevent the death of the local people at huge numbers due to cancer, in a context where the climate crisis is apparently the most important global issue. This massacre must therefore be stopped at all costs.
We have been exposed to disproportionate violence from the army and police forces, even though we continued our struggle in a peaceful manner all the time. But we will not surrender. We will continue our struggle to the last tree and we will not let this forest be transformed into a death pit.
Our ecological struggle aims to ensure a prosperous life for all living beings. The ecological struggle is at the heart of the democratic struggle. So our call is for everybody who relies on democracy. Be our voice and spread this message all around the world. Be in solidarity with us to stop this ecocide.”
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.
On July 24, crews for tree felling accompanied by gendarmerie forces swarmed the forest. Hundreds of activists rushed into Akbelen to defend the trees within a matter of hours.
Setting up barricades, the gendarmerie prevented the residents of İkizköy and ecology activists from entering the area where the crews cut down the trees.
The tension between security forces and defenders of Akbelen has risen and fallen multiple times and ended up with violence against the activist several times. Dozens of activists were detained with some of them battered by security forces.
The chainsaw in the forest were stopped when environmental attorneys declared that necessary permissions for tree felling in Akbelen had ended in 2021 and the Governorate of Muğla issued a statement to stop further tree felling on July 30.
Head of the İkizköy Environmental Committee Nejla Işık noted Akbelen Forest was not destroyed completely contrary to the statement of the governorate which implied the process of tree felling was completed.
In fact, Işık said, nearly half of the forest was still intact and the area that was cleared could still be afforested. Arif Ali Cangı, a volunteering attorney supporting the ecological struggle in Akbelen, also stated that there was still time to recover the forest which could later be impossible once the area was turned into a coal mine.
Işık, Cangı, and others resisting to save the forest from the grip of the coal mine called on all ecology and climate activists worldwide to speak up for Akbelen; to come to Akbelen in person if possible, or to hold demonstrations wherever they are if not.