Gendarmerie forces intervene as Black Sea locals resist contentious new road construction

Muhammet Kaçar / Nize, July 13 () - Turkish gendarmerie forces have intervened in a sit-in being held by a group of locals to hinder the construction of a road project in an upland area of the Black Sea province of Rize, with an elderly local woman standing out by saying the road should not be built as the citizens, who constitute the state, did not want it.

The gendarmerie forces on July 11 forcibly took away several local people, assaulting and dragging them on the ground, as they stood before caterpillars in the Samistal pasture of Rize’s Çamlıhemşin district to prevent the construction of “The Green Road,” a 2,600-kilometer inroad project planned to connect the pastures of eight Black Sea provinces.

As the locals of Rize made a tremendous effort to stop the already-begun construction with the help of commando forces, the footage of Havva Bekar, the outstanding figure who protested the demolition of the untouched forests by rebuking the security forces with a stick in her hand, was shared on the Internet by thousands.

“We do not want this road. We are the people who constitute the state. The state is nothing without us,” said Bekar, in video footage taken at the construction site with gendarmerie forces waiting behind her on July 11.

Meanwhile, an environmental activist group called “Storm Initiative” held a march in protest of the construction of “The Green Road” on Istanbul’s central İstiklal Avenue on July 12.

The fiercest resistance to the project broke out in Çamlıhemşin, where locals have opposed the connection of the Yukarı Kavun and Samistal pastures, fearing the new road would push housing and industry into the untouched nature of the region.

When a group of locals learned bulldozers had begun to work near the Samistal pasture on July 10, they quickly organized but failed to reach the area with their vehicles, as one of the bulldozers had allegedly broken down in the middle of the road, thereby blocking it, Doğan News agency reported.

Some 300 people carried stones and built an alternate road on July 11, to circumvent the blocked road and reach the construction site, which turned out to be protected by commandos. Undaunted by security forces, locals blocked the bulldozers and managed to stop the construction, the report added.

Among the people who were assaulted by the gendarmerie while standing before the caterpillars, Süreyya Yücel, 48, and Gönül Günay, 71, said July 12 they would continue fighting to stop the construction of “The Green Road.”

Günay said she had no doubt about stepping in front of a bulldozer to stop the construction of the road and the gendarmerie used force, assaulting her.

Construction projects intended to transform Turkey’s Black Sea region have recently become a source of conflict between the central government and the locals who are directly affected by them.

Most recently on July 9, tension rose between gendarmerie forces and locals in Artvin’s Cerattepe district, with local activists trying to prevent untouched forest in the region from being cleared for new mining facilities.



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