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.
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.
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