Trees and beaches killed for Erdogan’s mansion in Bitlis

Trees, beaches and the natural environment are being killed for the “Presidential Mansion” being built on orders from Turkish President Erdogan.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visited Ahlat district of Bitlis last year and announced that they would be constructing a Presidential Mansion there. The construction broke ground last month. The Presidential Mansion is being built on 32 acres of land along the Van Lake, and is rampant with damage to the natural environment. The trees along the lake’s shore are being torn out and the beaches along the coast are being destroyed.

Ahlat has an important place with the Kurdish people and in the history of Kurdistan as a green paradise adorned by the blue waters of the Van Lake as a gift from the Suphan Mountain. Ahlat is called “Xelat” in Kurdish, meaning “gift”, because Ahlat is a gift by the Suphan, the Van Lake and the Urartu civilization to the Kurdish people. Kurds have sung about Xelat for centuries.

The district is also important for the Kurdish people. After the Turks entered Anatolia, Turkmen families were settled in and around Ahlat. The settlement kicked off a thousand years of coexistence for Kurds and Turks. After the Ottoman Empire fell, the newly founded Turkish state practiced assimilation policies in and around Ahlat.

The most recent example of the assimilation is the Presidential Mansion being built along the lake.


The construction began in April, and is scheduled to be complete by August. There is great secrecy surrounding the construction and many workers have been fired for taking photographs on site. The mansion is being built on land and on the lake with the lake being filled in in places. The whole site is surrounded by barriers to avoid being seen from the outside or being photographed.

Ahlat experiences great economic woes as there is little to no production in the district and unemployment is at 80%. Living under such circumstances, the people of Ahlat are protesting the Presidential Mansion which will cost millions of Liras. The residents say citizens leave Ahlat and Bitlis due to unemployment, and that they need work and food, not a mansion.