Ministry demands evacuation of İztuzu Beach, company insists on staying
AA photoThe Environment Ministry has stepped in on the side of a local university over the latter’s opposition to a company claiming the exclusive right to operate facilities at the idyllic İztuzu Beach on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast – a safe haven for loggerhead turtles, also called caretta carettas.
Officials from DALÇEV, a local company that won a controversial tender organized by the Muğla Governor’s Office to privatize the beach with a bid of 8 million Turkish Liras, forcefully returned to take over the beach facilities on May 11, a year after DALÇEV was obliged to leave the area due to a court order suspending the deal.
After the suspension ruling, the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry signed a protocol with Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University, entrusting the university with the operation of the beach facilities.
Upon the company’s forcible attempt to take over the facilities last week, the university wrote a report about the incident and filed a complaint with the district governor’s office.
The ministry has swiftly responded to the attempt, with Undersecretary Mustafa Öztürk sending a letter addressed to the Muğla Governor’s Office asking it to ensure that DALÇEV evacuates the beach, with the help of law enforcement officers if necessary.
“I kindly request that you take necessary action to evacuate the area [İztuzu Beach] with the help of law enforcement officers. It was illegally occupied by DALÇEV officer Ramazan Oruç on May 11, 2016, although the area has been appropriated to Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University,” the statement said.
However, DALÇEV chair Oruç claimed that the university is the “real occupier” of the land, describing the university’s presence in İztuzu as “unlawful.”
“I think the ministry is unaware of the latest decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals. But [Turkey] is a state of law,” Oruç said, vowing that DALÇEV is “not going anywhere.”
His remarks sparked outrage from activists, with İztuzu Beach Rescue Platforms spokesperson lawyer Berna Babaoğlu Ulutaş stressing that the letter from the ministry demanded immediate evacuation and must be complied with.
“’Immediately’ means that you should evacuate, with the help of the gendarmerie, as soon as you get the letter. It means no extra time should be provided,” Ulutaş said, also underlining that the ongoing situation presents a risk to caretta carettas at a time when they are supposed to lay their eggs.
“We want the university to operate the beach,” she added.
Deputy chair of the university’s commercial enterprise board, Dr. Mehmet Ali Özler, said the beach which was entrusted to them, should be evacuated promptly in order to be ready for the summer season.
“We expect the matter to be resolved within a week,” Özler stated.
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 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 the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, which signed a protocol with Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University, thus entrusting the university with the operation of the beach.