ODTÜ protesters on guard to protect trees in campus
Nisan Su Aras ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
A planned project initiated by Ankara Greater Municipality to build a road between Anadolu Boulevard and Konya Highway, which was initiated by the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality. Photo taken from CHP Deputy Aylin Nazlıaka’s Twitter accountTension in Ankara’s Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) is building, after protesters refused on Aug. 26 to leave an area where a construction project to build a road by cutting down trees in the university campus was recently launched.
The police have been on the scene since Aug. 25, but have yet to stage any intervention. Aylın Nazlıaka, an Ankara deputy of the main Republican People’s Party (CHP) who is taking part in the protest, has described as “completely unlawful” the planned project to build a road between Anadolu Boulevard and Konya Highway, which was initiated by the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality.
The occupation-like protest commenced on Aug. 25, the day construction work began. It was reported that a water cannon and six buses full of anti-riot teams arrived near the gate of the university where a group of students are on guard duty. They warned the protesters not to pitch tents, after which the tents were removed by the protesters. The security forces then left, and the numbers of protesters were comparatively low on Aug. 26 compared to the previous day.
Natural site area
The road project was granted permission by the university’s administration, despite ODTÜ’s forest being a declared “SİT” area, meaning that it is a protected site where construction is forbidden, following a Culture Ministry ruling in 1995.
Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek argues that the new road will relieve the traffic on Eskişehir Road. “Here are a handful of city-enemy militants. Their sole aim is to make a scene,” he wrote on his Twitter account on Aug. 25.
Protesters argue that hundreds of trees will be cut down, contesting Gökçek’s claims that the road will simply run parallel to the campus.
Nazlıaka, CHP deputy and an ODTÜ alumnus, has been present at the protests, saying the planned works are unlawful. “What is being done is a completely unlawful operation. What must be done is first go through the municipal assembly and only then to proceed with this kind of construction. However, it seems that the Ankara Municipality must be in a hurry not to lose its seat,” she said.
Nazlıaka also argued that the incident marked the latest evidence that Ankara was being ruled “increasingly arbitrarily.” “What is being done at the moment is a betrayal to the city, a betrayal to nature,” she said.