'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Derin Vadi – Deep Valley

Faced with the belting hot weather of summer there is a place a little way up in the mountains that J and I love to slip away to for a late lunch, peace and some refreshing coolness. It goes by the name of Sarmaşık Restaurant on the Yuvarlakçay River, but we prefer the name on the original, hand-painted sign that first pointed us in its direction – Derin Vadi – Deep Valley.

. . down, down, diggery down – much improved these days

It’s all of fourteen years ago now since J spotted the board with its drunken lettering pointing along a dirt track to gawd alone knew where! We had two friends visiting from UK who were horrified, and I do mean horrified, as we turned onto a steep switchback that had been recently semi-carved from the side of a fairly precipitous valley. ‘We’re not going down there, are we?’ as knuckles whitened on the backs of our seats! Around the second hairpin we stopped by some young guys who were busy hacking out the track with picks and shovels. At our arrival they downed tools and galloped ahead down to a flattish plateau on which stood a simple, wooden shack where they promptly started to wash themselves down in a mini-waterfall that was splashing down the vertical side of the valley. ‘That’s not it, is it?’ gasped our traumatised and naïve guests. ‘I think it probably is’, said J matter-of-factly, ‘let’s go and have a look.’

Derin Vadi Restaurant Yuvarlakcay

water the colour of translucent aquamarine

Led by our freshly douched navvies now transformed into dust-free, spring-water dripping waiters we stepped around the side of the shack and were confronted by our idea of, if not paradise, a close-run second. There, under the shade of great Çınar/Plane trees, wooden platforms had been cobbled together over a fast-flowing little lake created by a home-made log dam. The water was the colour of translucent aquamarine from the malachite in the rocks. As we walked down the path that amounted to little more than a goat track the temperature began to drop the nearer we got to the water.


On the platform our shoes came off and hot feet were plunged into icy waters – our smiling navvy/waiter delivered four chilled beers and welcomed us to their family restaurant. I do believe we were their very first customers. So began a relationship that grew from regular customers to family friends. Now we get invited as honoured guests to the family weddings – with eight children it’s a case of three down – five to go!

Lois 112

‘Last of the Summer Wine’ or ‘One Foot in the Grave’ – with California hippy friend Lois

Sarmaşık/Derin Vadi is not a sophisticated place – the menu is simple and limited – trout; köfte (meatballs); chicken shish; delicious kid (as in goat) tandır and there’s fresh carp as long as you give them at least a few hours warning. There’s always plenty of fresh starters and salads and fruit for afters with a glass of rakı.Yuvarlakcay013It has changed little over the years – the navvies have improved the track a bit; the shack has been extended and made into a more practical kitchen and the toilet block is pretty decent and always clean. When you consider that but for the determination of the families of Pınar Köy, the local village, and a battle group of outsiders from around the area, all this would have been lost to the greed of big money that was hell-bent on destroying this beautiful place with a hydro-electric scheme. There is one thing that has not changed from that first day and that is the absence of concrete. Where others have sought to ‘improve’ their image with concrete terraces and water features, Derin Vadi has remained what it always was – an unspoilt bit of village culture and enterprise – family owned and family run. Long may the rest of the world continue to pass it by! I commend it to you.Yuvarlakcay006

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü – or, depending on the time of day – Derin Vadi!

The restaurant is easy to find – leave the Köyceğiz-Ortaca road and drive through Beyobası. Immediately past the big fish farm and over the bridge bear left (there are signs). Drive for a few kilometres through the forest to a small shop/market and turn left (again signed) down to the restaurant. Tel: 0538 628 1540

'Burası Türkiye!' 'This is Turkey!'

Yuvarlakçay – Two Years On – The T-Shirt

Occupy cartoon
'Occupy Everything'

My last post, ‘Yuvarlakçay – Two Years On’ complete with video of the ‘Lionesses’ raised a lot of interest, especially via social networking. Many found the story of protest against corporate greed and bureaucratic vindictiveness heartwarming and fascinating and were encouraged; especially in these times of protest and ‘occupy’ around the world.

I was amazed to learn, for example, that some students in the US were ‘aghast’ that community organising could happen ‘in a country like Turkey’. For me it illustrates very clearly how wrapped up in ourselves we ‘Westerners’ can be – how Orientalism lives on by feeding on a diet of ignorance, intolerance and general lack of interest in the lives, culture and social conditions of so many of our fellow human beings.

That said, this post is about a quick follow-up on the situation for the Yuvarlakçay River and the villagers of Pınarköy who were the backbone of the resistance.

military at Yuvarlakcay
the military arrive . .

Many of you asked if the battle was won, and my answer was a provisional ‘Yes!’ Today came

Yuvarlakcay villagers stop military
. . and the villagers stop them

confirmation from the Yuvarlakçay Protection Platform (organising committee and supporters) that the law suits against the following bureaucratic organisations of the state had all been successful – Governorship of Muğla (our province); State Waterworks Directorate; General Directorate of Forests; Muğla Provincial Administration; Muğla Provincial Directorate of Environment; Muğla Regional Office for Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage; Environmental Protection Authority for Special Areas; Ministry of Culture and the Energy Market Regulation Authority.

I invite you to read that list again – and applaud the efforts of our pro bono lawyer Berna and the determination of the people!

Yuvarlakcay general assembly occupy style
General Assembly just like the Occupy Movement

The Government filed law suits against a number of protestors by way of intimidation – all

Yuvarlakcay women chained to tree
women chained themselves to 'Tree 23' to prevent cutting

have been dismissed!

17 villagers were targeted by the government and had fines imposed for so-called ‘illegal’ buildings – we are awaiting the outcome of appeals. Whatever the result people will stand together and share any burden.

The campaign raised a fighting fund of TL41,491 (Turkish Lira) from personal donations and TL13,390 from activities. After all expenses (the

Yuvarlakcay 'Tree 23' is now a Wishing Tree
'Tree 23' saved and now a Wishing Tree

lawyers worked for free but the courts, advertising, fuel, food, media, etc cost money) there was a surplus of TL1184 which was donated for projects at Pınarköy Junior School, as previously agreed.

Meanwhile, to quote the Platform and villagers, ‘our eyes will be wide open for any threat.’

Just writing this has made me feel good – I hope our success will inspire you and others to stand up against all that is rotten in the economic system. As a fellow blogger commented ‘People Power At Its Best!’

Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü


Yuvarlakcay villagers on tree-planting
villagers march with new saplings to replace cut trees
Yuvarlakcay planting trees
planting for our future
Yuvarlakcay Torchlight Protest
New Years Eve 2009 Torchlight protest

Yuvarlakcay New Years Eve 2009

'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