Turkey has been cutting trees for about two years in Şırnak, a predominantly Kurdish-populated province in the southeast of the country, the new website Bianet reported on Wednesday.
NGOs in the region have reported that Turkey carried out a massive tree felling to pave the way for its military operations in the region against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Şırnak Province lost 7% of its forests in seven months, the Şırnak Bar Association’s Environment and City Commission said in a report released in early July.
The report revealed that the felling of trees takes place in the mountainous areas between Şırnak and Siirt, in the city center of Şırnak and partly in the areas between the districts of İdil in Şırnak and Midyat in Mardin.
The report says ancient and endemic trees are also being felled due to arbitrary and unregulated practices.
10 to 15 trucks transport trees per day to surrounding provinces, as well as to Kayseri, Antep, Osmaniye and other provinces, where trees are sold at prices well below their market value, Bianet cited the report.
Last week, Rojhat Dilsiz, the head of the Şırnak Bar Association, said the trees were being sold to local cronies.
“We have observed that a new process has started in our region regarding forest areas that are burned, cut down and damaged for security reasons,” Dilsiz said.
“Forest areas are offered to local cronies without dealing with legal procedures.”
“We and environmental activists are not allowed to go into the field and make observations. There is a serious massacre of nature going on,” Dilsiz added.
On Tuesday, members of provincial organizations of Şırnak opposition parties, Şırnak Bar Association and Şırnak Ecological Platform gathered in the city to issue a statement on the issue.
The group displayed a banner saying “nature is being slaughtered in Şırnak”, including signs saying “no to plunder of nature” and “if nature is destroyed, life dies”.
Hasan Özgüneş, a People’s Democratic Party (HDP) MP for Şırnak, accused Şırnak’s government-appointed governor, Osman Bilgin, of aiding pension seekers, Bianet reported.
“Rent-seeking groups that draw their strength from the government are upsetting the balance in the region,” said Nizar Ökten, the provincial leader of the Future Party (Gelecek).
Ökten asked the provincial director of agriculture and forestry to resign. “The rent-seeking groups keep you there. The democratic people of this country will speak out against corruption and bribery,” he said.
Officials from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) joined the protest.
Turkey has long been accused of burning forests and cutting down trees for military operations against its nemesis the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Kurdish-populated areas.