Bike tour in Van against ecological destruction in Zilan Valley

The HDP Youth Council of Van has protested against the ecological destruction in the Zilan valley by taking a bicycle tour. Four hydropower plants are currently being built in the valley - the remains of thousands of genocide victims would thus disappear.

In the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, the construction of four hydroelectric power plants was resumed in May in the Zilan Valley in Erciş district of Van - despite a court order to stop construction. If the power plants in Zilan Valley were actually completed, countless mass graves containing the remains of thousands of people killed in the Zilan massacre in 1930 would disappear into reservoirs. In addition, the social and ecological consequences of the AKP's destructive frenzy would also be catastrophic: more than 80 percent of the rivers in Northern Kurdistan are already dammed up or dried up today, almost all wetlands have been destroyed and the groundwater level has fallen by hundreds of metres in most areas. According to official figures, more than half a million people have been displaced by these dam projects. Nevertheless, the government's destructive construction projects are not coming to an end.

In order to protest against the destruction in the Zilan Valley, the Youth Council of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the Van province organised a bicycle tour. The action, which had the slogan "Youth active against ecological plundering", started on Saturday morning in front of the party building of the HDP in Erciş and continued to the Zilan Valley. Among the participants in the action were many activists of the Youth Council and HDP MP for Van, Muazzez Orhan Işık.

In planning since 2010

The hydropower plants in the village of Ilica (Germav), through which the Zilan River flows, have been in planning since 2010. An environmental impact assessment was not carried out, as the governor's office and the Ministry of Environment and Urban Development objected. As a result, there is no systematic assessment of the ecological status of the region, let alone an analysis of the expected changes in the ecosystem.

The approval procedure for the power plants ended in 2012, and construction of the plants began two years later. After strong protests by people from the valley, local and international NGOs and a number of lawsuits against the project, the Supreme Court in Ankara decided to halt construction. However, although the court ruled that the planned hydroelectric power plants in Zilan were contrary to Turkish environmental laws, construction work resumed undisturbed in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic. After the massacre of the people in the Zilan Valley, almost a century later another one is threatening: this time on its nature, which is supposed to erase the traces of the genocide from social memory.

AKP - enemy of nature

"We are dealing with a dictatorship that is destroying the whole geography of Kurdistan in a madness", said the HDP Youth Council spokeswoman Sinem Çetin at the end of the bike tour. It is a government that has set itself the goal of "wiping out" the history, culture and existence of the Kurdish people. At least 15,000 people - contemporary witnesses even say up to 55,000 are buried here in the Zilan Valley, Çetin said and continued: "But these deaths are not enough for the government. The genocide is intended to be followed by an ecological massacre. This mentality, which is at war with nature, has already exploited Hasankeyf and the Ida Mountains to fill the pockets of their pro-government contractors.”

Put a stop to government looting

The activist also pointed to other destruction projects of the AKP, including in Dersim, where the government wants to block the springs of the Munzur River, which is holy to Alevis, near Ovacık district and redesign them for profit, and in the Cudî region and at Gabar in Şırnak, where forest fires are regularly lit by the Turkish army.

"We as the HDP Youth Council are here today to put a stop to the looting campaigns of the ruling coalition of AKP and MHP. We must organise ourselves together to put an end to the anti-naturalistic policy of this government. If we want our future to take place in social peace in the green places of the world, we must win the battle now," Sinem Çetin said.