Bar associations on Yurtbaşı: "Environmental protection is a human right"

More than fifty bar associations in Turkey have spoken out against the marble quarry in the Kurdish village of Yurtbaşı, demanding compensation for the damage to the population and an official apology.

More than fifty bar associations in Turkey have issued a strong appeal against the marble quarry being built in the Kurdish village of Yurtbaşı in Van province. "Defending habitats is not a crime, protecting the environment is a human right, says the joint statement by chairpersons of a total of 58 chambers from Istanbul to Hakkari.

The people of Yurtbaşı have been resisting the operators of the marble quarry in their village, which is eighty kilometers away from the district of Gürpınar, for almost two decades. The story of the quarry began back in 2003, and due to the resistance of local residents, the DIMER company stopped quarrying marble in 2008. For twelve years there was silence in the quarry until it was signed over to the SAFBAZ company last year. In the middle of last week, tensions arose in Yurtbaşı between the villagers and the military that had moved in, and soldiers used firearms and expired tear gas. Four people were temporarily detained.

"Profit-oriented interventions in nature and habitats of humans and animals on the basis of unscientific approaches endanger the health of all of us, have serious effects on all living beings and impose a heavy mortgage on future generations," the chamber chairpersons state in their appeal.

The article 56 of the Turkish constitutional law states "Everyone has the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment. The development of the environment, ensuring a healthy environment and preventing pollution are the duty of the state and citizens." The current situation ndicates much worse things for the future, because nature conservation has been effectively abolished.

The scenes from Yurtbaşı during the Turkish military's attack "against people who were merely exercising their fundamental right to protest" are described by the lawyers' associations as a "reflection of a battlefield". The shooting into the crowd and use of tear gas grenades, which "despite indications that they may not be used after the date has passed," led to a "multitude of rights violations" and violated international law, they said.

The signatories of the appeal demand from the responsible authorities an immediate and unconditional stop of the marble mining in Yurtbaşı. "We demand the same for all other environmentally destructive and health endangering projects in the country. The profit-oriented policy against our nature, habitats and living beings must end. Citizens must not be denied their right to demonstrate." The chamber leaders also demand reparation for the damage caused to the people of Yurtbaşı and an official apology.