Photo: Greenpeace Turkey

One day of last September, in Turkey, in the area of of Soma, a city sadly known for a recent mine tragedy, farmers woke up and found high wire fences surrounding their olive trees.

The fence was erected, without any notice, after a decision by the Council of Ministers on last May to expropriate about 388,000 square meters of olive groves to install a Thermal Power Plant.

Despite the official protests of local politicians and the emotional resistance of local farmers, “operations” for the power plant installations continued, and bulldozers appeared in mid-October.

The action drew protests including from Greenpeace Turkey, whose lawyer, Deniz Bayram, asserted that the provincial directorate of the ministry of agriculture of Manisa had previously rejected the expropriation plan before, and for this reason the plan should be considered unlawful.

Citizens of the villages reacted with anger and dismay — unable to accept the loss of 16 thousand trees, some of which are more than 2,000 years old and still giving good fruits — sacrificed in return for a thermal power plant, the third in the area.

Moreover people from Yırca are afraid of the effects that another power plant could cause on their health, as they point to a link between the two already existing facilities and the rise of the number of cancer cases in neighboring populations.

On October 21, press throughout Turkey featured images of farmers thrown to the ground — Yırca villagers hit by private police while trying desperately to avoid the destruction of their ancestral olive trees, and one of their few sources of income. There were pictures of people picking olives from cut-down trees.

A social media campaign has been launched in support of protesters, using #ProtectOliveTrees and #ZeytinimiKesme hashtags on Twitter.

The Yırca Harvest Festival will take place tomorrow and Sunday (November 8 and 9), an event organized by Greenpeace Akdeniz-Türkiye, and promoted as the Yırca Hasat Festivali on Facebook. A weekend of movie screenings, tales and workshops will rally further support against the continued destruction of trees.

UPDATE: Yirca Villagers Rejoice, Replant

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