Muhammet Kaçar / Rize, Sep 15 () - A meeting between the Black Sea province of Rize’s governor and villagers of the Çamlıhemşin district to discuss the construction of a controversial 2,600-kilometer road project to connect highland areas in northern Turkey has ended with protests and no consensus.
The residents of the Kavron and Samistal meadows in the Çamlıhemşin district and Rize Gov. Ersin Yazıcı met at a hotel in Ayder on Sept. 14 to exchange their stances and thoughts on the construction of the “Green Road” project, which began a couple of months ago but was halted due to a court decision. Villagers, however, began protesting after Yazıcı refused to allow them to share their view.
The construction work of the controversial road project started in Çamlıhemşin in early July, but was brought to a halt after facing concerted resistance from a large group of locals, lawyers, activists and representatives of several environmental organizations and rights groups.
The construction of the controversial road project restarted after a 42-day halt on Aug. 21, with an escort by gendarmerie forces despite vociferous opposition from locals and environmental advocates, as well as the lack of an official permit and an ongoing case against the project.
The meeting, which came after a call made by the Rize governor, who decided to listen to the locals around three months after the construction was initiated, began amid tension as villagers from Samistal were initially not permitted inside the meeting room, to which the villagers from Kavron objected.
Bülent Bekar, a resident of Kavron, objected to the decision, saying, “Either we all enter or no one will.”
“These people have been requesting meetings to tell the governor about their positions. We worked very hard but to no avail. It is a great misfortune to discriminate between people when we finally found an atmosphere to relate our problems,” said Bekar.
Rabia Özcan, who was dubbed by the media as “Havva Ana” [Mother Eve] after footage of her defending local forests against construction companies appeared on social media, said no harm would come from the citizens.
“What sin did these people commit? They have left their jobs to meet with the governor. But now they are not let in. Was the governor afraid of us?” said Özcan. “The governor should not be afraid of us and we should not be afraid of him.”
The villagers from Samistal were then allowed into the meeting, which lasted around two hours but ended with the protests of the villagers, who left the meeting on the grounds that they were not permitted to speak.
Özcan, talking to reporters after the meeting, said no decision could be taken because Yazıcı had not allowed them to express their stance.
“Those meadows will not be joined. This is our decision,” said Özcan, adding that she had wanted to express her feelings.
Villagers also derisively applauded Yazıcı as he was leaving the meeting.
- Officials leaving the meeting
- Group protest by clapping hands
- Statement of "Havva Ana"
- Statement of "Storm Initiative"