The Rize Governor’s Office has banned the villagers’ protests against the stone quarry attempted to be opened in İkizdere by Cengiz Construction, a company of the pro-government Cengiz Holding.
According to a statement released by the Governor’s Office, the related ban on meetings and demonstrations will be in effect in İkizdere, within the jurisdiction of both the police and gendarmerie.
While the ban will be in force in İkizdere for 15 days starting from today (May 17), the objectives of the ban have been indicated as follows:
“Preventing tension between different groups, hindering provocative actions that could undermine our national unity and solidarity, maintaining public order and security, protecting public health in the face of coronavirus pandemic, protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms as well as the rights and freedoms of others and public peace, ensuring general traffic and passenger safety, hindering incidents of violence and preventing their spread, preventing any unfavorable incidents…”
The following meetings, demonstrations and events have been banned in all public places such as squares, avenues, streets, roads and parks as per the Article 11 of the Law no. 5442 on Provincial Administration and the Article 17 of the Law no. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations:
“Holding marches, protest demonstrations, sit-in protests, hunger strikes; opening stands; setting up tents; organizing indoor and outdoor meetings, convoys with loud vehicles, petitions, concerts, festivals and rallies; distributing handouts, leaflets and brochures; hanging banners and posters; holding mass welcoming, farewell ceremonies; making press statements.”
The ban has also one exception: “Except for the congresses and press statements of parties, unions and non-governmental organizations such as associations etc. to be held inside the buildings of the related institutions on the condition that social distancing rules are observed…”
Parliamentary question by HDP
On the other side, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Muş MP Şevin Coşkun has submitted a Parliamentary question regarding the ongoing ecological destruction in İkizdere. In her Parliamentary question addressed to Minister of Environment and Urbanization Murat Kurum, Coşkun has underlined that İkizdere is one of the protected sites of UNESCO.
The MP has asked the Minister why the stone quarry project is implemented despite having no public good. She has also questioned whether the damage to be done to the living spaces of the people of İkizdere was examined by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization.
Reminding the Minister that the villagers appealed against the decision of “No Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is Necessary” on March 17, 2021, HDP MP ŞEvin Coşkun has asked why the project has started even though the related legal proceedings are still ongoing.
What’s happening in İkizdere?
A decision of urgent expropriation was taken in İskencedere Valley in the district with the Presidential decree for the quarry needed to be used in the logistics port construction to be built in the İkizdere, Rize.
Thereupon, the villagers took action and set up a tent at the entrance of the valley, started to keep watch and took the decision to the court. However, Cengiz Holding employees, who would carry out the construction, entered the valley on April 21 and started to work for the stone quarry.
Company employees, who came with the gendarmerie, asked the citizens who set up tents at the entrance of the valley and were on guard to remove their tents. Despite the reactions of the citizens on watch, the tents were lifted and the gendarmerie barricaded the entrance of the valley.
In a short time, the construction machines started to work, and the people of the region flocked to the valley. Citizens said that the authorities of the company working in the valley did not have any permissions and that the work was illegal. The resisting villagers ensured that the construction machinery left the area with their protests.
Law enforcement fined the villagers for failing to comply with the curfew declared as part of the COVID-19 pandemic measures. The villagers continued to resist despite the fines. On Sunday, April 25, the villagers whose roads were blocked came with trucks from the forest and demanded the cessation of the activity and the withdrawal of the gendarmerie.
The gendarmerie did not withdraw and, as the resistance continued, they intervened with tear gas against the villagers. Several women were injured during the intervention, and the villagers were detained. The villagers, including İkizdere Associations Federation Chair Ziya Yıldırım, were later released. They were also fined due to the 3-day coronavirus lockdown.
Despite the resistance, it was revealed that Cengiz İnşaat applied for a capacity increase on 3 March while the construction was continuing and the 11th Regional Directorate of the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure gave the company permission to open a new quarry. Having faced protests over the stone quarry project for weeks, Cengiz Holding stated that the site for the quarry was chosen by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.