As forest fires rage on in Dersim for weeks on end, locals criticise government officials for remaining indifferent to the fires and ignoring their repeated calls for intervention.
For locals these fires are also a reminder of the past, as great swathes of forest turned to ashes in 1995 in particular as a result of operations of the Turkish armed forces against the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in the east and southeast of Turkey.
Murat Yıldırım, Co-Chair of the Dersim branch of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), believes that the state is starting the fires deliberately:
“Someone is sending us a message, to say: you put the fire out and we will start it again, you put it out and we will start it again. We have known this for years, not just in Dersim, but in all regions of Kurdistan.”
Meanwhile, Zeynel Örnek, management committee member of the Ovacik district branch of the HDP, says that they have witnessed forests being burnt as a result of military operations.
“We know that a lot of military operations go on here. Fire breaks out after the helicopters. Is it bullets fired from the helicopters? Or maybe something else, something special? But we are witness to it, maybe they are using special ammunition.”
Musa Aydemir, a resident of the region, said that the state generally responds immediately to fires and natural disasters in Turkey, but that intervention is delayed when it comes to the Kurdish populated regions.
“They intervene very quickly elsewhere, but they don’t care about the fires that happen here, only nature lovers are interested.” he states.
In Dersim, forest fires, many of which are caused by shelling during Turkey’s military operations, continue to rage.
A forest fire which broke out on 17 August after a military operation in the countryside of Hozat district, was brought under control on its 15th day.
A fire which broke out on 29 August in the Munzur Valley was extinguished on the 3rd day, while the forest in Roj Creek in the Pülümür Valley has been burning since 28 August.