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Former HDP leader says unity can halt ‘environmental and cultural destruction’ in Turkey

FORMER People’s Democratic Party (HDP) leader Serpil Kemalbay said that the “capitalist-driven environmental and cultural destruction” in Turkey can be halted by people standing together against the interests of big business.

She said areas under threat from the Turkish state — including the ancient city of Hasankeyf which is to be flooded and the Kaz mountains which are being despoiled in a mine development project — belong to the people.

Ms Kemalbay called for those engaged in the struggle to “fight together” against the “neoliberal policies of the [Justice and Development Party] AKP and the [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan regime,” who she said was solely responsible for the destruction.

Tens of thousands took part in a protest last week over plans to develop a gold mine in the Kaz Mountains by the Canadian company Alamos Gold through its subcontractor Dogu Biga Madencilik.

The company is accused of carrying out a “tree massacre” in the region close to Cannakale with 195,000 chopped down — four times the number detailed in an environmental impact assessment.

Groups, including the HDP, have come together to form the Kaz Mountains Fraternity which has been monitoring developments at the site as part of its “Water and Conscience Watch” campaign.

It has warned that 20,000 tonnes of cyanide will be used in the mine which it fears will contaminate the local water supply, including the drinking water dam in Canakkale.

In Turkey’s largely Kurdish south-east, the state has started the flooding of the ancient city of Hasankeyf due to the construction of the Ilisu Dam project. 

More than 10,000 people will be displaced and 12,000 years of Kurdish cultural heritage is set to be destroyed as the city is submerged.

Istanbul Hasankeyf co-ordination spokesman Abdulhakim Das said linking the two struggles was vital to stop the “plundering of the environment.”

“What is happening in Hasankeyf and Kaz Mountains are done by the same hand,” he said. “Therefore we need to establish a network of common struggle. If Hasankeyf is the history of humanity, Kaz mountains are its lungs.”

Ms Kemalbay said that “thousands of people from the Kaz mountains to Hasankeyf stood against historical destruction,” and were resisting the “massacres of nature.”

But she criticised the authorities for taking a heavy-handed approach, with tear gas used against protesters and arrests of those involved in demonstrations.

“This is an indication that a crime has been committed. No-one can be blamed for defending their democratic rights,” she said.


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