Ikizdere residents: "They will turn the valley into a major construction site"

Residents of Ikizdere, in Rize are resisting the construction of a quarry. HDP deputy Murat Çepni visited the protesters.

For some time now, the residents of the villages around the Ikizdere and Eskencidere in the province of Rize in the Black Sea coast have been making headlines with their resistance. With barricades and vigils, they fight against the destruction of the Ikizdere Gorge by the company Cengiz Holding, which wants to build a quarry in the area. The villagers had previously been expropriated by presidential decree.

Cengiz Holding is one of the companies known as ‘AKP companies’ and in which President Erdoğan himself holds shares. It is therefore no coincidence that the company is supported in enforcing its project by the Turkish military police, which repeatedly take action against the villagers.

HDP deputy Murat Çepni paid the protesters a solidarity visit, as he wanted to know the situation first hand. In an interview with ANF he said: “The valley is called Eskencidere. It is a branch of the Ikizdere Valley. The Eskencidere Gorge connects two villages and is of particular importance to four localities. There are tea plantations in this area. In addition, beekeepers have their bees there and produce a special type of honey. The drinking water of the villages also comes from this gorge. The people here live from agriculture and beekeeping. Now a road is to be built for the quarry from the entrance of the gorge to the quarry. We are talking about three kilometres. With the construction of the road, the forest there will be completely destroyed. The water will also be poisoned by the explosions at the quarry. The quarry spans from the left to right edges of the gorge. Even now, with work not even started properly, the stream is full of dust and dirt. When the work will really begin the water will be completely dirty and beekeeping will be over. In addition, the fauna in the valley is being destroyed.

Basalt is a hard, heavy stone, so it needs to be exploded first and then softened. They say that they would make these explosions safely and that there would be no dust because they would wet the surfaces. But everyone knows that this is not possible. There are also other quarries in the valley and the consequences are clear to everybody. For example, there is a quarry right across from this village near the village of Şimşirli and several more down the road. People know well what having a quarry near by means. They know what damage the dust caused by the explosions does, or the rubble and the constantly moving trucks. With the new quarry, the whole region will become a major construction site. Whichever way you look at it; this project will give way to irreversible devastation."

When asked about the connections between Cengiz Holding and the regime, Çepni said: “When the AKP came to power and practically became the ‘owner’ of the state, it also created its own capital. The so-called ‘gang of five’ [companies] actually belong to the AKP. These are actually companies belonging directly to the palace and of which Erdoğan is a partner. So when we criticize these companies, we are directly criticizing the government's policies. Because today the ecological movement has become a direct part of the struggle for democracy. This struggle is also part of the struggle against fascism; it is also an anti-imperialist struggle. Let’s think about the protests of the ecological movement in the Ida Mountains. All law enforcement and security forces are trying to pave the way for these companies. It is nothing more than a looting policy to support which laws are issued. That is why we say that these companies are not independent from the palace."

Regarding the political situation in the region, Çepni, who himself comes from Ikizdere, said: “In this region, the AKP received its highest share of the vote. That is why the situation here is particularly remarkable. People have personally experienced many things in a short period of time: They see the machines, the bulldozers and the military police and it is quite natural for people to ask: 'Are you the soldiers of the state, the people or a company? Have we given you our votes so that you can tear down our houses over our heads and starve us? People are angry and begin to say that they should stop voting for them [the AKP] again. People have got to know both politics and the state at their own expenses. The security forces attacked them and used tear gas against young and old people alike.”

Çepni emphasized that the people are determined not to give up their fight and announced that the HDP will continue to support them.