CHP draws more reactions as tear gas used against environmentalists
YALOVAThe municipal security forces in a western Turkish city used tear gas against a group of environmentalists on Dec. 1, putting the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in an even more difficult situation after the cutting down of over 150 trees to construct an overpass last week.
Security forces intervened harshly when a group of environmentalists displayed banners during a meeting at the Yalova municipal assembly. Banners and chanted slogans prompted the municipality’s security forces, the Zabıta, to resort to tear gas. Mayor Vefa Salman, who was presiding over the meeting, was forced to postpone the assembly after several people were affected by the tear gas.
Salman, a member of the CHP, defended his decision to fell the trees in a press conference before the assembly’s meeting.
“I had to take this decision, although it was painful to me. Those trees were not cut to build a shopping mall or a power plant. They were cut to save people’s lives,” he said, noting that 17 people had died in traffic accidents at the location due to the lack of a safe overpass.
“If you ask me whether we should save trees or a human lives, I would pick a human’s life a trillion times,” Salman said.
The CHP, which has sided with environmentalists in protests against the government over development projects across Turkey over the past few years, has been sent into soul-searching by the crisis in Yalova.
The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) group chair in the Yalova assembly presented a question motion on Dec. 1 regarding the controversial overpass project, while an assembly member from the CHP complained that he was not allowed to speak during the heated debate. “I was expecting you to apologize. If you do not, I’m standing up to apologize to Atatürk,” the CHP’s Faruk Kırtay said, addressing the mayor.
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, modern Turkey’s founder, had described Yalova as “my city” and encouraged the creation of green spaces both in this western town and in the capital Ankara.
“You betrayed Atatürk, you betrayed the Gezi spirit and you betrayed the CHP that supported it,” former minister Yaşar Okuyan said during his visit to the local Atatürkist Thought Association, one of the leading Kemalist associations in Turkey, on Nov. 30.
In the summer of 2013, a local demonstration to protect Istanbul’s Gezi Park from an assertive development project turned into a nationwide protest movement after the Turkish authorities opted to use force.