Village guards cut down forests in Van

Village conservationists in the province of Van have started to clear large areas of forest. The trees obstruct the military observation of the city and the radio frequencies, the reasoning says.

The nature of Kurdistan is always against the aim of the Turkish war policy. Large areas of forest are burned down to restrict the movement of the guerrillas and to strengthen the control by the military.

In Van large forest areas are now being cut down. Village guards, led by paramilitary Ayhan Kahraman, have already started logging in Şabaniye neighborhood. The trees prevent the military from observing the area and jamming radio frequencies, the environmental destruction justification said. The soldiers offered 300 TL (36 Euro) per tree to the owners. After that, the deforestation of thousands of trees began. The forest stands of the actually green province Van are acutely threatened by the deforestation and forest fires.

Who are village guards?

Village guards are paramilitary units that are used in Kurdistan against the guerrillas and Kurds critical of the government. They consist to a considerable extent of tribal leaders, large landowners, families and individuals, who often have been working with the state for decades and try to defend the interests of the state in Kurdistan. Some of the village guards join this system voluntarily, others are threatened with murder, arrest and expulsion and become village guards under pressure. Millions of Kurds who refused to collaborate have either had to flee or to give in to the pressure of the military and village guards. Thousands of Kurdish villages that rejected the village guard system were burned down by the state and razed to the ground.