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Turkish opposition MPs back protests against Rize stone quarry project




Cengiz Holding first applied for a permit on January 19 to develop a basalt quarry on 13.45 hectares of forest in the village of Cevizlik in Kizdere.

Known as one of the Big Five for its history of winning contracts with the Justice and Development Party (AKP). Mehmet Cengiz, the chairman of the company, is known to have close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The company has won major government contracts under a number of controversial deals. In 2017, Cengiz Holding submitted permits for mining projects near Cerattepe in northeastern Turkey which were blocked for environmental reasons by an administrative court. However, they submitted a new application which earned them a permit to continue construction.

This situation echoes the current situation in Rize. In its candidacy for the center of yidere, the Cengiz Holdings project raised environmental concerns because it was to take place in a protected natural area which was labeled New destination for thermal and winter tourism “by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. awarded the contract without a Environmental assessment deemed necessary.

The project started on April 21th after a presidential decree for urgent expropriation in the Kencedere Valley region. In their application, the project could be extended to 37.02 hectares and its operating period would be until 2025. However, it could be extended if ore was found or if an increase in production was expected.

Resistance from the villagers to the project at one point prevented the development of the quarry site and the earthmoving machinery used was withdrawn. However, protesters encountered resistance from security forces deployed to protect the site. On April 25, soldiers were deployed to return to nearby homes to warn residents to stay indoors, pointedly using COVID 19 restrictions as an excuse.

There have been instances where protesters have also been greeted with force. Yakup Okumuolu, lawyer and member of the Environment and Ecology Movement, shared a video from kizdere where the gendarmerie forces gassed tear elderly villagers protesting against the project.

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