'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Yuvarlakçay – Two Years On

Yuvarlakçay was not just a battle against corporate greed and bureaucratic bullying; it was above all a battle for the rights of people. The right of local people to have their needs factored into decisions being made in the plush boardrooms of İstanbul and the less-than-connected offices of the faceless pen-pushers in Ankara.

Lokma and Çay being prepared

Yuvarlakçay brought together villagers who are subsistence farmers and business owners; it brought together foreign residents and Turks in a ‘coalition of the willing’ prepared to turn out at any hour of the day or night to face down the authorities who were backed by the Jandarma and the power of the state.
This coalition came together to protect the environment of the Yuvarlakçay River and the water rights of the villagers whose livelihoods depended on the continued free flowing of this, one of the purest water sources in Turkey. Villagers defied the authorities and occupied the site; protecting it day and night through the coldest and wettest part of the Winter of 2009-2010.
To keep spirits up and the media interested a dedicated group set about organising everything from classical and folk concerts to my favorite, a barby, followed by midnight march of flaming torches along the river to the protest encampment on New Years Eve 2009. It was like a scene from the ‘Lord Of The Rings’! For me it is a magical memory and a confirmation in my belief in the innate ability of people everywhere to cooperate and work together for the common good.

United We Stand (thanks Co & Maria for this one)

Today, Sunday 11th December J and I joined a group who retraced the river walk to the site of ‘Occupy Yuvarlakçay’ to commemorate the start of the campaign that led to the people’s victory in securing the river and its environment and water rights for all and not the profit of the few. The sun was shining, it was a beautiful day and we shared in the sense of achievement, comradeship and community as well as the tea and lokma supplied by our Brothers and Sisters in Arms from Pinarköy.
Yuvarlakçay was a catalyst that bred, through hardship and threats against the property of villagers, a species new to this part of the world – the ‘Lionesses of Pinarköy’ and here, by way of tribute is an unedited piece of video of the Lionesses in action sending a message to the then governor of Muğla Province – ladies and gentlemen, I give you the ‘Şalvar Rappers’.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü

Yuvarlakcay Salvar Rap – original 1st performance from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.


Under Attack!

Our local English language newspaper, Land of Lights, is reporting yet another contentious Hydro-electric Scheme (HES Hydro-Elektrik Santral), this time on the river at Yanıklar near Fethiye. Yet again, with little or no consultation with local people, with no (or forged) Environmental Impact Reports (ÇET) licenses have been granted and tree cutting started. The policy seems to be to inflict enough damage on the environment before protests can be organised that the will to resist is squashed.

The tragedy for Turkey is that there is not a single river system in this country that is not under threat – not one! Where there is serious local resistance people have succeeded in stopping these diabolical resource-stealing scams; and make no mistake, that is what they are. Despite what everyone is told it is not about generating electricity, it is all about stealing and commoditising the people’s water.

How can I claim that? When these thieves tried to pull this scam at Yuvarlakçay, the following information was obtained: based on current prices for electricity; assuming that the generating plant ran at full capacity 24/7, 365 days a year and making no allowances for down-time, wages, etc, it would have taken 42 YEARS to break even on construction costs! Do you know of any business that would make that sort of investment? Not one of these mini-schemes is viable unless you take the value of the water into account. At Yuvarlakçay the operating company would have ‘owned’ the water for 48 years with an option on 48 more! Five villages depend on the Yuvarlakçay for their existence. Villagers were told they could expect no more than 1/3 of what they presently use.

J and I were involved in the Yuvarlakçay campaign, near Köyceğiz, from the very beginning. We were not organisers; that was in far more competent and energetic hands. It was also in the ownership (to use a social psycho-babble term) of the villagers of Pinar Köyü and they were critical in stopping the eco-criminals.

In defiance of government, kaymakam, jandarma, forestry management and construction company the villagers occupied the site day and night for more than three cold, wet, winter months and faught off all attempts to evict them. The women, in particular, were like lions – being associated with them and their resistance was a real priviledge.

If there are people near you who are resisting the theft of their birthright, be it water, trees, land, in fact anything – I urge you to get out there and give them support. Being part of these community battles can be uncomfortable; it can also be inspiring and a lot of fun. As evidence of this, I offer the following tribute to the ‘Lions of Pinar Köyü’ as they perform their ‘Şalvar Rap’.

Yuvarlakcay Salvar Rap – original 1st performance from Alan Fenn on Vimeo.

My own uncut, unedited video of the original first performance, followed by some village music and dancing.

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü