Turkish pop singer Sezen Aksu backs villagers’ protest over stone quarry project

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Turkish pop music icon Sezen Aksu has expressed her support for villagers protesting a stone quarry project by a pro-government company in Turkey’s northern Rize province.

In a statement released on her website on Wednesday, Aksu urged the government to reconsider the project, which will see 16 million tonnes of stone for landfill in Rize quarried by Cengiz Holding, a company with close ties to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Locals have for weeks been protesting against the quarrying in İşkencedere Valley in the village of İkizdere, citing the destruction of the environment in the region which is famed for lush forests.

“This country belongs to us, our mothers and fathers, this country belongs to our children,’’ the 66-year-old songwriter and producer wrote.“The temporary authority we have give granted to ruling powers is not so that our living spaces and lives can be taken away from us.’’

If the government insist treating its own people this way, Aksu said, it will have “exceeded its authority and thus lost its grounds for legitimacy.’’

Police have detained over a dozen protesters while gendarmes have used pepper spray on the group, which has attempted to block the project by sitting in front of the heavy equipment, climbing trees and blocking the entrance to the valley.

Aksu is the second Turkish megastar to back the protest of the locals. Turkish popstar Tarkan last week expressed solidarity with the people of İkizdere.

Cengiz Holding first applied for a permit on January 19 to develop a basalt quarry on 13.45 hectares of forest in Cevizlik village and quarrying began last month.

Cengiz Holding is known as one of the “big five” companies for its history of gaining contracts from the AKP. Mehmet Cengiz, the company’s chairman, is known to have close ties to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling party.

Ahval

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