As we sit far away and think things have gone quiet (so must be alright) in Turkey, on the night of 18 October, Ankara metropolitan municipality has staged a night time operation reminiscent of Istanbul police invading Gezi Park.
ODTU (Middle East Technical University – METU) students and local population have been protesting against the cutting down thousands of trees in ODTU ground to make way for a controversial motorway project.
Construction machinery belonging to the municipality, accompanied by the police, entered into the ODTU woods by breaking the fence. A group of man wearing municipality vests formed a human chain to stop anyone protesting from entering the area. In the social media, it is being said these men were in fact members of the AKP (ruling party) youth groups and not employees of municipality. This blurring of boundaries between those elected and those hired by them, and civilian members of political parties is disturbing.
Reports said police helicopter was also in the area. Two academics protesting against the midnight raid are said to be wounded by plastic bullets.
The Environment and Urban Development Ministry approved the plans of the motorway last week which were sent to ODTU Rector’s office. Reports say that ODTU was going to appeal to the decision in the courts. In fact a statement from the University published today (19 oct) confirms this and also states legally they should have till 4th November to appeal. The municipality was known to be concerned about a court decision against the project. So taking advantage of the holiday during the Eid (Tue – Fri) they seem to have started the project. Illegally of course as they did not wait till the end of the appeal period. Forced entry into ODTU land last night resulted in clearing off of 3000 trees – 600 of which were supposed to be replanted elsewhere – in one night! This kind of illegality happens all the time in Turkey: there was a court decision to stop the construction on Gezi Park when it started back in May.
With a website the banner of which is made up of photos of buildings alone (with 3 sea gulls and 1 palm tree), can we really expect any pro-environment decision to come out of the Ministry of Environment AND Urban Development?*
* Sehircilik in the name of the Ministry could also be translated as ‘Town Planning’ but I, for one, doubt there is any planning going on…let alone respect to the planning process
For Turkish news this blog is based on, photos and video, see: http://www.radikal.com.tr/turkiye/odtuye_gece_yol_baskini-1156183
- ODTU: Gezi of Ankara (translatingtaksim.wordpress.com)
- ODTU – A warrant for a student’s arrest has been issued (translatingtaksim.wordpress.com)
Statement from ODTU in Turkish is here: http://www.metu.edu.tr/tr/18-ekim-2013-odtu-yerleskesine-yapilan-mudahale-ile-ilgili-rektorluk-aciklamasi