Turkish police fire tear gas at gold mine protestors
DHA photoTurkish security forces fired tear gas on the second day of a protest against a gold mine being built in an ecologically pristine area in the country’s Black Sea region.
Facing determined resistance from hundreds of protesters, police and gendarmerie forces fired tear gas on Feb. 17 to disperse the demonstrators who erected barricades, set rubbish bins on fire and made bonfires with tree branches in an endeavor to block the construction work in Cerattepe, an area in the alpine meadow of Kafkasör in the Black Sea province of Artvin, Agence France-Presse reported on Feb. 17.
The area close to the border with Georgia is seen as one of the most environmentally important in the country with its wet climate creating a lush landscape of extraordinary beauty.
“We have been resisting over the last 20 years. We understand that the intervention will be different today. We do not have any guns or armament. We defend living creatures’ right to live with our bodies. The people of Artvin are showing an extraordinary resistance. We will resume the resistance today as well,” Doğan News Agency quoted Green Artvin Association head Neşe Karahan as saying.
Karahan was subsequently detained by police, along with five other environment advocates that included members of her organization.
Uğur Bayraktutan, a deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), started a hunger strike early Feb. 17 outside the Artvin Governor’s Office in protest against the construction work. Additional police and gendarmerie forces were dispatched to Cerattepe early Feb. 17 to ensure the protest did not escalate further.
“This [mining] is not an ideological act,” said Agriculture, Food and Livestock Minister Faruk Çelik, speaking to reporters ahead of a meeting in the Mediterranean province of Antalya on Feb. 17.
Çelik said he was not so familiar with the protest in his hometown Artvin when asked to comment on the incident.
“I’m not that familiar,” Çelik said, adding that Artvin “is a province whose soil is arid, but rich in mineral sources.”
“We have not issued any permit with the management [of mine developer Cengiz Holding] for road construction... The area we allotted for constructing mine quarries is such a tiny area of 77,439 square meters,” Forestry and Waterworks Minister Veysel Eroğlu told the state-run Anadolu Agency on Feb. 17.
Veysel implicitly said gold would be imported in the event mine quarries cannot be constructed in the area.
Locals built barricades and threw rocks to resist against police forces who fired tear gas, Doğan News Agency said, citing video footage it recorded. Locals parked around 300 vehicles on Feb. 16 to block access to caterpillars owned by the Cengiz Holding.
Thousands of locals and members of environment advocate groups have also been waiting on hills, staying the night by lighting fires, in a bid to protect nature.
“We will win by resisting,” the protesters chanted.