Women from İkizköy defend Akbelen Forest

Women from İkizköy, who were attacked, besieged and declared marginalized by the gendarmerie many times for defending the Akbelen Forest, said: "If defending our living spaces is marginality, we are marginalized to the end".

The women of İkizköy, who lead the resistance in the Akbelen Forest in Milas, in the province of Muğla, are determined not to let their living spaces to the plundering project of the Limak-İçtaş company, despite all the blockade and obstruction of the state. The women from İkizköy, who have been waging both a legal and a de facto struggle against the forest massacre carried out to expand the mining area for 4 years, said: "If defending our living spaces is marginality, we are marginalized to the end." The reaction was to the statement made by President Erdoğan in which he called the Akbelen resistance “marginal”.

The women of İkizköy were interviewed by ANF.

Almost all of the women from İkizköy, who resolutely defend their living space against eco-crime, are nomads. Aytaç Yakar, one of these Yörük women, has been fighting non-stop for 4 years not to leave her living space for Y Energy Company, a subsidiary of Limak and İçtaş. Yakar, who was born and raised in İkizköy, regrets realizing the extent of the plunder too late. Yakar saw the Işıkdere District, where she went as a bride at the age of 13, destroyed for the sake of coal. She said: “They expropriated our village by force. They gave us 10 thousand TL and drove us away from there. At that time, we did not know the law. They destroyed my house, my country, my entire existence. They cut 45 fruit trees before my eyes. Everything I had was buried there, my memories of 35 years disappeared there. If we had known that it would be like this, we would definitely not have given Işıkdere.”

After being exiled from Işıkdere, Aytaç Yakar settled on 500 square meter land in the Ova region and said: “At that time, people migrated everywhere like nomadic birds. I did not migrate. I did not go to the center of Milas. I looked at the concrete, the concrete looked at me. I couldn't live like that. May my father's place be in heaven, there was a 500 square meter place that he inherited. 5 of us settled there with my husband and children. But they did not leave us alone there either. The manager of the company named Abdullah came and tried to drive us out of there as well. That's when I realized what kind of attack we were facing. I told him to go. We have been resisting since that day.”

'We defend our land for the future of our children'

Yakar said that they have been continuing their legal and de facto struggle for 4 years to defend their living space. She said: “We have been on a vigil in morning and evening for 2 years. So much so that our house is now a vigil. I started this resistance for my children and grandchildren to breathe. They want to confiscate my land, which I want to leave to my 4 grandchildren. They have already destroyed the neighbourhood of Işıkdere, and now they have their eyes on our settlements and forests. They had the gendarmerie to attack us and slaughter our forest before our eyes. I was beaten and dragged on the ground by soldiers my child's age. We raise our children in such a way that they would not hurt even an ant. Is that what their mothers taught them? Did he say go hit your elders, beat them? What's my fault? To protect my environment? And now we've been declared marginal. If defending our habitats is marginal, then we are marginalized all the way.”

Workers suffering from breathing diseases

Yakar also reproached the villagers who work in thermal power plants and who are partners in crime in the slaughter of nature for fear of losing their jobs. She said: “Soon no one will be able to access water or breathe. Then will the money they receive save them? My husband suffered from breathing diseases because of his work in Yeniköy and Kemerköy thermal power plants. He can't breathe properly, can't walk properly. Tomorrow, those workers will all experience the same problems."

Aytaç Yakar, who is determined to defend the Akbelen Forest, said: “We brought the massacre of our environment to the parliament. If necessary, we will bring it to the whole world, but we will not give up. I was born once with my mother. I will die once.”

Melahat Çulha, one of the villagers in the resistance, is also from Işıkdere District. Çulha, who is 63 years old, said that they resisted not to have another Işıkdere. She said that they had to evacuate the neighbourhood under pressure and threats and added: “They threatened us. If you don't give up your lands, they'll be expropriated, they'll take your fields for free, they said. First, we did not give our places to the company, we cut our olive groves with our own hands. All the attempts we wanted to make were blocked by the headman again. There were lawyers, doctors and teachers in Işıkdere. But they scared them all. If we knew what was going to happen, we wouldn't have allowed it. I had an olive tree in Işıkdere. Its trunk was so thick that four people could not hug it. I bought five sacks of olives at a time. All was gone because of the coal.”

Melahat Çulha pointed out that they had settled in the village of Çam but they were at risk of being expelled from there too, as this time the company set its sights on the Akbelen Forest.

Çulha said that a great natural massacre took place before their eyes in the last raid and added that even if the proposal in the parliament was rejected. She underlined how the company put people one against the other. “Families got into each other here because of Limak. We were shattered. That's why I don't talk to my son-in-law. He works at the thermal power plant and constantly threatens me to keep quiet. I lost my health. I had a vascular compression in my left arm due to stress. My arm is still not holding it properly. I don't talk to my daughter either. She is a partner in the destruction of the land where she was born and raised because she is afraid of losing her job. This is how the company silences everyone by threatening them with losing their job. They told my son-in-law, telling him to shut up that mother-in-law of his. But I will not give my land, water, trees to anyone. My struggle will continue until Limak gets out of here. Earth first, then life. They destroyed the huge pine trees ahead for mining. We have nothing left. Our oil, our honey, our garden, everything is gone. Everywhere will be a pit of hell. Sometimes I despair. So many deputies are coming, but no one manages to stop the company. Then I got strength again and said that we will succeed for our children and grandchildren.”

'Our lives will end if the forest is destroyed'

Ilkay Demir, another villager, is the youngest resistance fighter among women. Demir, 39, a mother of two, lives in Akbelen and resists day and night against the destruction of the forest next to her for the sake of profit. Demir pointed out that when the company entered the forest for tree cutting on 24 July, they did not even allow her to go to her house and said: “I was even prevented from going to my own land by the gendarmerie. My two children, aged 9 and 12, had to wait for me at home for hours.”

Demir added: “My husband works in Bodrum. I live here. I have no job, no insurance. I grow wheat, barley, chickpeas. We sell more, the rest is up to us. If this forest is gone, our water, honey, livelihood and life will go away. I will not allow this.”

Demir said that 16 people live in Akbelen Mevkii, but most of the villagers had to leave their homes out of fear, and most of them went to work in other provinces or abroad. She said: “I am the youngest. We have decided to resist here in order not to give up our land, water and air, and we continue to resist. The company wanted to buy my land, I did not accept it. They tried everything to get us out of here. They detonated dynamite. We were shaken so much that we thought an earthquake was happening. The walls of my house always cracked. They detonate dynamite 7-8 times in a row, and my house feels like it will collapse. Children are very afraid. Their psychology is broken."

Demir said: “When they cut down the trees, I was so upset that it was as if they cut my arm. We tried to prevent it, we got pepper sprayed. There was nothing we could do, we couldn't save it. I cried a lot. I want my children to grow up not in concrete but in nature, on the soil, among birds and lambs, and I will do anything for that. They say we are marginal, but we are not. We will continue to fight because if Akbelen goes, all living things will go.”

Zehra Yıldırım, 78, is one of the oldest resistance fighters of Akbelen. She said that her house in Işıkdere was destroyed once and she would not allow the same thing to happen again. She called on everyone to increase solidarity and said: "I will die here, I will not give up this forest."