'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.

12 thoughts on “Yuvarlakçay – Two Years On

  1. Alan I remember this well as I followed every report on the subject and did I yippee when you’ll won the day? I not knowing the area at all at that time I remember the unfairness of it and was rooting for a result with which combined fortitude and togetherness was bound to accomplish a victory. Thinking of past victories where the power of people “United we Stand” mantra’s have shown the big fat bullies that they cannot trample over people such as Uzumlu and the Cement company debatacle, the entrapment of two innocent dolphins kept in a swimming pool in Hisaranou and not forgetting our fight in the UK against the Poll Tax in the 80’s. The coming of the ordinary man to fight for the rights of their personal livelihood, fresh air, clean water and pocket book is a fight for personal freedom and respect.

    The Salvar Rappers says it all for me and I loved watching the footage – superb! Do you mind if I share it?

    1. Hı Chris! and a warm welcome the the comments here on Archers. You’re spot on about standing together against the bully-boys; when a group of villagers had their houses declared illegal by the authorities the whole village plus a lot of outsiders went to the notary and drew up a paper saying ‘we’re all illegal – so knock all our houses down’ there was a rapid backtrack!
      Like you I really do believe that we ‘common men and women’ will prevail – I just didn’t think I’d live to see it – now I’m desperately swollowing my Fynnon Salts, cod liver oil, you name it to get a few more years to see it out 😀
      Of course you can share – anything from this blog or http://okcular.net

  2. Wow, this is amazing. If only the Occupy Wall Street gang could have this much effect… But without a clear cut objective like these folks had, it’ll be tough. Thanks for posting this and remind us of what we can accomplish.

    1. Hi Ellen! You’re spot on; it is an amazing story, especially considering the pressure put on the villagers by the authorities. Their village muhtar was on the fiddle and when he was exposed he fled for his life (literally) and hasn’t been heard of since.
      Re: Occupy Movement – it will be very difficult because they are up against the organised forces of repression. I feel they are right to avoid leaders and search out a different way to do things. I’m a member of the Socialist Party of GB and we have managed very well since its foundation in 1904 without leaders (by definition, no leaders so no ‘followers’). ‘Occupy’ may not succeed this time around, but it has achieved a near miracle by giving ordinary people in the ‘developed world’ belief in themselves that they can change things.

  3. This is an amazing video. From all sorts of perspectives. I am immediately struck by the impact of how rap has globalized…but more importantly…that this river was protected – and that people were brave enough to speak out and ACT out and occupy. What is the state of things a year on? Did the commemoration date reveal that all is well – or that continued action is needed?

    1. Our local lawyer, Berna, acting pro bono issued 15 writs against managers, directors and organisations – the Special Court has 2 left to deal with and so far every decision has gone in favour of the people. In theory everything is protected but the villagers have no trust in the bureaucracy and keep an eye on things – the need for 24 hour occupation is over.
      It was an amazing experience to be part of it.

  4. this is so amazing, the power really lies within the people, thinking about your success

    1. Hi Ella! Isn’t it fantastic? We regulars at the site had got wind that something special was going down but could never have imagined such an inspiring piece of resistance. The old lady who does the solo bit was 84 at the time and was one of the permanent occupiers who camped out under plastic. Being villagers they quickly had a very cozy set of shelters and a big community kitchen organised.

  5. Let’s hope the last 2 follow in the footsteps of the first lot. I used this example today re: the fact that community organizing is not dead (so said a student of mine). My students were aghast that community organizing could happen in a “country like Turkey” (their words). I am still stuck on the 84 year old rapper – and so are my students – loved it. So impressed. Let’s hope more occupation is not needed.

    1. I think that in much of the rest of the world folks have been amazed that it has taken US citizens in general so long to wake up to the lack of democracy there. Here in Turkey it has taken a long time because much of the housing that people live in is illegal in some way or other if some bureaucrat so decides; there was too much to lose. There is no doubt that that is changing as Yuvarlakcay and now other campaigns are showing. There is little chance that the site will be grabbed in the near future – but people have to be watchful and prepared to put it all on the line.
      A big challenge for us ‘comfortable’ Westerners is ditching our insularity and Orientalism. Perhaps I should come and do class one day 😀

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