Entry to Artvin banned as police disperse protesters
ARTVİN – Doğan News Agency
AA PhotoThe governor’s office in Artvin has banned entry to the province as protesters arrive to support hundreds of locals who have been resisting against a plan to construct a gold mine that could severely damage the Black Sea province.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon on Feb. 21 at a group of around 2,000 people, mostly women, who attempted to march toward Cerattepe, an upland meadow area that has been earmarked for construction, after gathering at 11 a.m. at a public square.
The Artvin Governor’s Office banned new arrivals to the city center and several protesters were reported to be detained on Feb. 20.
The prohibition resulted in a large traffic jam blocking access to Artvin from the Black Sea province of Rize and the eastern Anatolian province of Erzurum.
“It is our responsibility to protect the green fabric of Artvin if [Cerattepe] gets damaged,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told reporters on Feb. 20 after a five-hour meeting at the Ankara Governor’s Office.
“I assure you all,” he said, adding that the Turkish government would not let Cerattepe be destroyed or be subjected to provocation.
Facing determined resistance from hundreds of protesters, security forces stepped in on Feb. 17 to disperse the demonstrators who had erected barricades, set rubbish bins on fire and made bonfires with tree branches in a bid to block the construction work in Cerattepe, an area in the alpine meadow of Kafkasör.
On Feb. 18, caterpillars owned by the Cengiz Holding, a Turkish group of companies operating in the construction industry, started preparation work to build the mine in the area.
A governmental body dealing with Turkey’s forested areas has denied allegations that trees have already been cut down to open space for the construction of the mine.