Protesters camping at İztuzu beach halt demo after new suspension of privatization

Protesters camping at İztuzu beach halt demo after new suspension of privatization

Protesters camping at İztuzu beach halt demo after new suspension of privatization

Local activists had been camping for more than 10 days near the protected İztuzu beach on the Mediterranean Sea, known as a safe haven for loggerhead turtles. DHA Photo

Local activists, who had begun to camp near the protected İztuzu beach on the Mediterranean Sea to denounce a privatization deal, halted their protest early on Jan. 9 after a new court order to suspend the sale process was issued.

Facilities at the idyllic beach, renowned for being one of the most important breeding areas for loggerhead turtles (caretta caretta), were controversially privatized despite locals’ opposition last June, but the operations were suspended by a court order over a lawsuit opened by activists.

Hours after the first stay of execution order was lifted on Dec. 28, officials from DALÇEV, the local company that won the tender with a bid worth 8 million Turkish Liras, entered the beach with construction machines around midnight, prompting a spontaneous rally. In the meantime, a local court also ruled to suspend the deal in a separate lawsuit between the Governor’s Office and the Municipality, further complicating the judicial battle.

The protesters' numbers grew on New Years’ Eve, as they braved the cold weather gripping Turkey. On Jan. 6, the Governor’s Office of Muğla communicated a new stay of execution order to DALÇEV, requesting for it not to proceed with the takeover of the site.

Activists announced on Jan. 9 that they would temporarily halt their action after the new court order, but vowed to return if the privatization is again given the go-ahead.

“The court orders to suspend the privatization are of course important, but let’s not forget that our goal is to obtain the same result in the final verdict,” the group calling itself “İztuzu Solidarity” stated.

The privatization process had controversially been backed by the Environment Ministry, which assured that no new construction would be allowed and said the deal only meant the takeover of the facilities ran until now by the municipality. It also said no entrance fee would be collected for the site.

Many local activists, however, argue that the privatization of the facilities at the beach will be a death sentence for one of the few remaining untouched coastal areas in the region.

Meanwhile, DALÇEV head Ramazan Oruç took to Twitter to react to the protesters' decision to halt the demonstration.

"It's the coldest winter in 50 years. God helped us because if the weather was better weather, those scumbags would have stayed longer," Oruç said, in a post that is likely to fuel more anger.

Oruç is a former ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate for the municipality of Ortaca, where İztuzu is located.

The process also triggered a war between the municipality, which has opposed the deal and even given support to local activists, and the Governorship, which has led the privatization process.