Company returns to idyllic İztuzu beach one year after cancelled tender
AA photoA company has “forcefully” returned to the idyllic İztuzu beach on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, renowned as a safe haven for loggerhead turtles, and claimed the right to operate the facilities at the seaside, a year after the Environment Ministry cancelled a controversial tender to privatize the facilities following protests. Muğla University, which was entrusted with the protection of the beach in the western province, made a report of the incident and filed a complaint with the district governor’s office.
Facilities at the idyllic beach were controversially privatized despite strong opposition from local residents in June 2014 but operations were later suspended by a court order over a lawsuit opened by activists.
Hours after the first stay of execution order was lifted on Dec. 28, 2014, officials from DALÇEV, the local company that won the tender with a bid of 8 million Turkish Liras, entered the beach with construction machines around midnight, prompting a spontaneous rally.
In the meantime, a local court also ruled on Jan. 6, 2015, to suspend the deal in a separate lawsuit between the governor’s office and the municipality, further complicating the judicial battle.
The final move was made by Turkey’s Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, which signed a protocol with Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University and entrusted the institution with the operation of the beach.
Company officials from DALÇEV, however, reportedly entered the beach on May 10 and attempted to forcefully take over the operation of its facilities, allegedly removing locks and emptying the facilities.
“They [DALÇEV] are presenting a protocol they signed with MUÇEV [the Muğla Environment Protection Foundation operating under the governor’s office of Muğla] in 2014. The document has no legal validity,” said members of the university’s commercial enterprise board, adding their security staff did not intervene against DALÇEV officials to avoid making a scene.
“We made a report of the incident and filed a complaint with the district governor’s office of Ortaca [where İztuzu is located],” they added, according to reports by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.
The district governor of Ortaca, Fatih Ürkmezer, also made a statement to reporters and said the gendarmerie was set to make an investigation and related departments would proceed accordingly.
Meanwhile, DALÇEV chair Ramazan Oruç claimed they were entitled to operate İztuzu following the June 2014 tender, arguing the beach’s appropriation to Muğla University was solely for protection purposes.
“There was an attempt to cancel the protocol but the local court in Muğla barred that attempt. Hence, we are practicing our right. The university is here for scientific purposes, without any commercial purposes,” Oruç alleged, adding they had begun preparations to run the facilities over the summer.
DALÇEV’s attorney, Musa Müfit Elitaş, also reiterated Oruç’s point, claiming it is “legal” for DALÇEV to operate İztuzu.
“We base our argument on a delivery record dated Dec. 29, 2014. There are no records or court decisions against this delivery record. Hence it is legal for DALÇEV to be here,” Elitaş said.
On the other hand, a member of the university’s commercial enterprise board, Mehmet Ayhan, said the protocol between the Environment Ministry and Muğla University rendered previous delivery records obsolete.
“This matter cannot be resolved with bullying. We will not engage in any actions with them, we initiated legal proceedings,” he stated, according to reports by Doğan News Agency.
Oruç is a former ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate for the municipality of Ortaca while lawyer Elitaş is a member of the AKP’s district administration.
Former Environment Minister İdris Güllüce had announced his decision to cancel the privatization tender on his official Twitter account in January 2015, stating there would be “no commercial activity, sunbed or umbrella on İztuzu beach.”
“We’ve gathered with academicians and journalists. We are going to entrust the caretta carettas [loggerhead sea turtles] to Muğla University. We will sign the necessary protocol,” he added.