It is planned to cut down trees in Akbelen forests in Işıkdere, the former settlement of İkizköy, where Yeniköy Thermal Power Plant is located in Milas district of Muğla. This plan will expand the lignite field close to the region. If this plan is realised, 740 decares of the forested area will first be destroyed, and then nearly 3000 decares of olive groves and agricultural land will be opened for mining. Local people and environmentalists are fighting against this. Interventions that violate many rights, especially the right of local people to live in a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment, are met with intense resistance. As seen in all efforts against humans and nature, which should be protected, nature is sacrificed to the financial resources to be transferred to companies. In doing so, human rights are severely violated.
Undoubtedly, the Akbelen struggle is primarily an environmental struggle. It is a struggle against Turkey’s violation of its environmental obligations as a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.
However, this struggle is also a struggle for human rights.
First, as the United Nations General Assembly recognised last year, living in a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a human right. In parallel with this right, Article 56 of the Constitution protects everyone’s right to live in a healthy and balanced environment. Ensuring access to information on environmental issues and developing public participation tools is a constitutional requirement in our country to protect the right to live in a healthy and balanced environment.
The right to live in a clean and healthy environment is not an abstract, hollow right. A clean, healthy, and sustainable environment can only be realised with a political will that does not destroy sink areas and fights against deforestation.
On the other hand, it should not be forgotten that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. Achieving the right to live in a healthy environment as a goal can only be possible through the effective implementation of the guarantees of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution and international human rights treaties. In a political environment where civil and political rights such as access to information, participation, freedom of peaceful assembly and expression, access to justice, and economic and social rights such as the right to adequate housing and the right to development are rendered dysfunctional, the right to live in a healthy environment is nothing more than an empty promise.
The attack on Akbelen forests is a severe intervention in the right of the local people, who live around the forest area and have cultural and livelihood ties, to live in a safe, clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.
The effects of the intervention are not limited to this. In addition to this, the massacre of the Akbelen forest area and the disproportionate and unlimited force used by the state authorities against the reaction to this once again demonstrates the importance of the principle of the integrity of human rights explained above. Two commercial companies want to destroy hundreds of acres of forest area without caring about the consequences and the effects on nature and human life. To silence the voices of villagers and activists who oppose this cruel plan, state force is used, and people are beaten, manhandled and unjustly deprived of their freedom for defending nature. A forest massacre has also become a chain of human rights problems that stifle the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of the individual, and free and independent expression, and criminalise not the destruction of the forest but the protection of the forest. As such, the state is siding with the companies but against the people, giving the green light to the systematisation of multidimensional and layered human rights violations.
The massacre of trees in Akbelen, where judicial processes have not yet been completed, and no environmental impact assessment has been carried out, must be stopped, and the arbitrary and unlimited violence against those exercising their right to peaceful protest, which has reached the dimensions of torture, must be stopped immediately.
Association for Monitoring Equal Rights (AMER), Rights Initiative Association (RI), Human Rights Association (HRA), Human Rights Agenda Association (HRAA), Citizens Association (CA)