15 Turkish villagers released after confronting security forces in ‘water war’

15 Turkish villagers released after confronting security forces in ‘water war’

SİVAS – Doğan News Agency
15 Turkish villagers released after confronting security forces in ‘water war’

AA photo

Fifteen villagers from the village of Tatar in the Central Anatolian province of Sivas, who had protested against security forces in order to prevent their spring water from being diverted elsewhere, have been released. 

Their release comes after a protocol outlining the use of the water evenly among local villages was agreed upon. 

The villagers of the Tatar, located in the Suşehri district of Sivas, hit headlines with images showing them targeted on Oct. 1 by gendarmerie forces using tear gas and a pressurized water-cannon vehicle. They had been protesting attempts by a construction company to enter the village to divert a spring water source, which the villagers used for irrigation, and build a system to use the water as tap water in three close villages. Eskimeşe, Gökçekent, and Akıncı. 

Fifteen were detained for resisting the state’s security forces, while one gendarmerie soldier and three civilians were reported wounded. 

A local court has since decided for their release, while a common protocol on determining the use of the water source was reached and undersigned by the heads of the four villages and Suşehri District Governor Kadir Perçi. 

According to the agreement, a measure of the water removed from the source will be left for the use of Tatar villagers, while the rest will be used in a closed tap water system. 

Yaşar Demir, the head of the Tatar Village Association, who returned after the incidents to the village from Istanbul, where he lives, said the locals were satisfied with the agreement. 

“We have a relationship with the other villages. There has been reconciliation and we are good now. We hope there will be no further problems. We have achieved what we wanted,” Demir said. 

Kıymet Daş, a 55-year-old villager who had bravely laid on the ground in front of the gendarmerie forces on Oct. 1 to prevent them crossing through Tatar, was among the 15 released on Oct. 4. She said she had taken on the security forces despite knowing she was not strong enough to resist alone. 

“I was not expecting such an intervention. I never thought they would come at us with tear gas. Such incidents happen in big cities, I did not expect to happen in villages. I would have not laid down there if I had known,” said Daş, adding that she was a renal patient and did not want to give up the clean water she drank. 

Villagers had halted the construction back in April by blocking the road to heavy-duty vehicles. The construction company returned in early October, this time with a gendarmerie escort.