The Green Activists of Artvin Turkey

About a year ago we were searching for the right Land Rover, an old Defender to replace a Discovery that had stranded us, far from home, on one too many occasions. We were looking for just the right one: clean, well priced, and free of significant problems. A pretty tall order, especially if the search is concentrated in Istanbul, as the price of things are unnaturally inflated. We decided to expand our search to Bursa, and then even on to Trabzon and Artvin, a relatively small city near the border with Georgia. I thought it would be an adventure, so we took off. Its pretty funny how you get into Artvin by air. You fly into the country of Georgia, and then get transported back to Turkey via bus. We literally stepped off the plane, formed a line, and marched into a waiting bus. As we were driving by homes and tiny bodegas, I noticed the stores carried Diet Dr. Pepper, which they don’t sell in Turkey, (they just started selling Diet Sprite this year). I so wanted to pull an emergency lever or something that would stop the bus, so I could get out and grab one.

The lines of cargo trucks and busses were long and thick to cross the border into Turkey, so we waited. I observed the ironic scenery of rough, unshaven, and masculine truck drivers sipping tea from those iconically shaped, delicate Turkish tea glasses in the shade of their vehicles, immune to the oppressive humidity. I saw a family with multiple children eating a picnic lunch in a patch of scorched earth next to the immense trucks. Despite the chaos of border officials and drivers haranguing each other and trucks honking, they managed to create their own little calming oasis, filled with the Turkish version of fast comfort food: pots of homemade stuffed grape leaves, and fresh bread slathered generously with tomato paste and feta cheese.

After crossing the border, we arrived at this tiny shack of a place next to a commercial wharf that functioned as passport control, and there you have it…Welcome to Turkey.
Artvin is a gorgeous place about 30 kilometers from the Black Sea Coast, surrounded by lush, green mountains containing steppes for the growing of tea. The natural beauty of the area is unique, and I felt privileged to have seen this firsthand, because had I not been there for the purpose of looking at a truck I may have never thought to book a flight out there. The guy showing us the truck was a very cool guy too, and though we ended up not buying it, he bought us lunch at a restaurant nearby, where we ate Hamsi, (out of season) but delicious nonetheless.
Artvin has been in the press recently because of the actions of resident activists, Turkish citizens, who have been repeatedly resisting the construction of mines in their forested areas for 20 years. Mining activity would destroy the natural ecosystem and ruin the unblemished landscape; hurting future ecotourism potential for the people of Artvin. Its shocking to read that the “Artvin Chief Public Proseuctor’s Office launched an investigation against Green Artvin Association head Nur Neşe Karahan, Union of Artvin Forestry Cooperatives (ORKOP) head Hasan Yaşar and Republican People’s Party (CHP) Artvin provincial head İlyas Şahin along with Sinan Aslan, Nihat Köksal and Selim Demirci, charging the six with “restricting working freedom,” after they did not allow employees of a mining company conducting mining activities in an area covering the Cerattepe and Genya regions in Artvin’s upland village of Kafkasör to pass”. These are obviously trumped up charges meant to intimidate the citizens of Artvin.

Why is the Department of Forestry and Wildlife so unconcerned with the conservation of their country’s vast ecosystems. This lack of involvement directly contradicts the Mission Statement clearly outlined on their website (in quotes below).

“The Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, formerly structured as the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, was established on June 4, 2011, with a vision to be a respectable and leading institution ensuring the right to live in an healthy environment where fundamental requirements of existing and next generations are considered; life quality is enhanced and natural resources are managed reasonably.
Working to fulfill its responsibilities from water to forestry, along with the nature protection, meteorology, erosion and desertification control; our Ministry conducts its activities with an approach giving priority to the satisfaction of the people and organisations it serves, makes every effort to ensure that a sensible, participatory, transparent, integrated and sustainable understanding of management predominates in all its applications.”


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