KCK Ecology Committee: Ecological destruction at the highest level during AKP rule

The KCK Ecology Committee spoke of the ecocide carried out in Kurdistan on World Environment Day.

In this interview, the KCK Ecology Committee spoke about the ecocide carried out in Kurdistan. The interview was published to mark 5 June, World Environment Day since 1972.

The interview deals with the climate crisis, where it comes from and who is responsible for it. In addition, on behalf of the Ecology Committee, a self-critical analysis was made of the shortcomings in the struggle for an ecological solution to date and the perspectives for the future.

The climate issue poses a serious threat to natural environments. How has capitalist modernity contributed to this? What do you think the condescending consequences of capitalist modernity’s ecological catastrophe have been, and how do you evaluate them?

The ruling forces of capitalist modernity are responsible for the ecological disaster we are experiencing, in addition to the wars and numerous other ills that befall humanity. Ecological degradation has always been a powerful weapon. In the name of power, nature has been ruthlessly exploited and destroyed. Nature is pillaged after every military invasion. The trees cut down in the legend of Gilgamesh are a reflection of this mentality, and it extends to the present day. The Assyrians eradicated forests in the areas they occupied, and following the same mentality in the Vietnam War, the US did this in an even more destructive way by abusing technology. We see the latest examples of this mentality today in the practices of the Turkish state throughout all of Kurdistan.

The main problem in the climate crisis is the reckless approach of the responsible sovereign powers and the rulers of the nation-state and their unwillingness to compromise their interests. Our future is being sacrificed to the interests of these powers, which constitute a minority of the world’s population, and the few corporations they support. The climate reports released in recent years reveal this. The entire ecosystem is being destroyed for the interests and welfare of one percent. Ecological destruction is being carried out in the name of “development”, as touted by capitalist modernity. Moreover, what the capitalist system refers to as development is essentially the plunder and destruction of nature to be able to sustain the consumption which keeps the system alive. All that this development has brought to humanity has been the detachment of humans from nature. It has brought poverty, displacement, cruelty, and illness imposed on nature and human beings. In the cities, that which is being referred to as labor resembles slave conditions.

As Kurdistan, Turkey, and the countries of the Middle East, we have faced the results of the monopolistic practices of the capitalist system more severely in recent years. The ecological destruction we are experiencing today has been tried before in other parts of the world. It is not difficult to see the dark picture that awaits us by looking at other countries where these same policies have been implemented. With the backing of legislation supporting ecological plunder, a small number of large corporations are monopolizing markets around the world, and these companies even receive official aid. This usurpation takes from the people what is rightfully theirs. It has usurped land and water and brought about the end of agriculture. Drought, thirst, destitution, and migration represent the next phases. People must work together in the face of this instability in order to survive independently of the capitalist system.

According to you, what steps need to be taken to overcome the ecological crisis and to remedy this situation?

Global warming was already predicted in 1824. The first climate conference was held in 1979 and was followed by numerous international meetings. The number of Conference of Parties (COPs) organized so far reached 28 last year. But promises have not been kept. Decisions are not set into practice, especially by the US and right-wing governments. The indifference of those who created this crisis has led to new problems. This is why we are experiencing the consequences of the climate crisis that was predicted two centuries ago. Almost no action was taken. Most of the climate talks to date have been led by the UN, where nation-state officials have taken part. Therefore, the UN, as the highest-level authority where ecological problems are discussed, is as responsible for the climate crisis reaching this level and its consequences as it is for the solution.

With the rapidly spreading World War III, the construction of nuclear power plants, the exponentially increasing production of weapons, and the unparalleled ecocide for the profit of the giant corporations supported by the government, fingers are being pointed to society as the main cause of the climate crisis. This is being done to mislead the public and evade responsibility. Even though we can talk about fixing it now, if this slaughter continues, an irreversible phase can be reached in only a few years. We are about to lose the chance to find a solution.

Is there enough sensitivity to the danger that awaits us? How do you evaluate the level of social responsibility, ecological awareness and struggle?

Ecology is related to all areas of life and branches of science. The area it covers is quite wide. It goes beyond the general environmentalist’s perception. Rêber Apo [Abdullah Öcalan] defines ecological consciousness as the most basic form of ideological consciousness. Ecological movements in the world have a long history dating back to the 1960s. In recent years, as the consequences of the crisis have been felt more intensely, ecological sensitivity has increased. However, since the reality of capitalist civilization and the nation-state system has not been sufficiently examined, the development of an alternative struggle that is able to overcome the problem has not developed. Since the capitalist system is primarily responsible for ecological destruction, it is unimaginable that a marginal, elite struggle within the confines of the system can bring a solution to these problems. We are all victims of the ecological plunder that is being developed against our will and in which all kinds of decisions are taken to our loss. For this reason, the ecological struggle is not a struggle to be carried out within the narrow borders of ecological movements. One of the biggest misconceptions so far has been in this regard. This is true for the struggle in Kurdistan as well, where this very understanding played a role in the loss of Hasankeyf. The ecological struggle must be waged as a people’s struggle. Today, the people who are most exposed to ecocide are the ones who have lost their forests, fields, pastures, and streams from which they drink water. As in many countries around the world, the ecological struggle in Turkey and Kurdistan must be massive and stem from the people. To the extent that this is achieved, fruitful steps can be taken in the ecological struggle. The protests against the massacre of nature in the cities of Turkey in recent years and the recent action in the village of Marinos in Colemerg are very valuable first steps in this struggle. But this reaction needs to develop wherever nature and life are attacked. Since this plunder is being carried out everywhere, everyone must defend their lives by defending nature. No one in Turkey or Kurdistan should remain silent against this plunder.

When compared to the level of consciousness towards the freedom struggle and the development in the struggle for women’s freedom, the ecological struggle is insufficient. In order to protect our lives, we have to create awareness and take action to prevent this further destruction. Creating this consciousness means showing a common reflex wherever there is an ecocide plan, organizing the struggle and not allowing these attacks. So far, these steps have not been taken in Kurdistan. This has not been done even for our historical sites such as Hasankeyf, Zeugma and Geliyê Godernê.

What were the ecological consequences of the policies implemented under AKP rule?

During the AKP rule, ecological destruction was experienced at the highest level. The AKP’s fascist and hostile mentality centered around the Kurdish genocide is being reflected in its policies against the entire geography of Kurdistan. There is literally a coup in the ecological sphere. Especially after the elections of 2023, this has become even more faceted. After the defeat in the 2024 elections, the government aims to increase ecological destruction with the haste that the next four years may be their last. This is admitted in the government’s statements. With the new publicly disclosed regulations regarding water, mining, forests, and power plants, it has become clear that this destruction has been given full support. With these new regulations, even clean-water basins have been opened to the utilization of mining sites, industrial facilities, and mass housing. All changes in regulations have been to the detriment of the people and in favor of monopolies. In fact, data on mining clearly reveals the ecological destruction during the AKP era. For example, while only 1,186 mining licenses were issued from 1923 until 2002, this number exceeded 386,000 in the 15-year period between 2008 and 2023, during the AKP rule. During the AKP rule, 60 percent of the land in Kurdistan and Turkey was designated as mining areas. In the first 3 months of 2024, 372 mining projects were approved, mostly in Kurdistan. These data alone are enough to show the extent of the ecocide carried out during the AKP rule.

Most of the ecological plunder is carried out under the name of “public interest”. No mine is more valuable than trees and forests. What could be more important than forests, especially today when we are struggling with an ecological crisis? Can gold and coal mines, for which many forests are wasted in the examples of Cudi, Akbelen, Karadeniz and Ilic, save our future? Moreover, there is enough gold to meet the industry’s needs for 250 years and tons of gold is used as jewelry.

Recently, many Solar Power Plants (SPP) and Wind Power Plants (WPP) have started to be built under the name of renewable energy projects. Are these power plants as ecological as they claim? Why are they being built mostly in Kurdistan? What is the cost of this for the Kurdish people and ecology?

The public is being greatly misled on this issue. These WPPs and SPPs, touted as the “golden age of renewable and clean energy”, are being built according to occupation plans put into practice by the AKP government. By increasing exploitation, especially in Kurdistan, the AKP government attempts to hide its dirty plans. This occupation operation started in Urfa, Weranshar, Wan, and Amed and expanded to Sirnak, Dersim, Kharpet, Merdin, Agiri, Meleti, and Semsur. They intend to spread this throughout Kurdistan, from Botan to Serhat, from every village to every city. This invasion, carried out in the name of SPPs, is much larger in scale than previously thought. It constitutes one of the greatest dangers for the future of Kurdistan. According to this plunder plan, millions of panels will be installed on millions of square meters of agricultural land. This plan is not local and is being put into action as a new occupation project. It covers areas ranging from thousands and tens of thousands of hectares of the most productive agricultural lands to pastures, villages, and settlements. Dams are being built on the grounds of “security”, with the aim of disrupting and fragmenting the integrity of Kurdistan’s geography. SPPs are being built for the same function and purpose, but this time under the guise of “clean energy”. The plan is to oust settlements and destroy the means of life for the people. For this reason, the most fertile agricultural lands, pastures, and forests are occupied to build the power plants. In fact, the aim is to occupy settlements and agricultural lands that are not in the proximity of dams because they are out of reach of destruction by dam waters. These areas are to be reached through the SPP and WPP projects, which are being sold to the public in the name of “clean energy”. We are facing a new, modern version of the special war plan that set thousands of villages in Kurdistan on fire in the 1990s. We are facing more burning, destructive, dirty, and insidious plunder than the fascist practices where soldiers themselves burned the villages. The most tragic thing is that this is touted as being ecological. These power plants bring destruction to society and nature. Elements such as lithium used in SPPs will require a 10-fold increase in mining. Along with the occupation during their installation, their production also causes serious destruction to nature. In addition, even though they are built under the name of energy needs, there is no need for this in Turkey, where only one-third of the electricity capacity produced is used. The energy produced in these power plants is stored for companies to make a profit. They aim to seize the agricultural lands of the people and occupy the geography of Kurdistan. Since Kurdistan is planned to be encircled from within and rendered uninhabitable and dehumanized, it may be more realistic to describe this as a special war operation to cleanse Kurdistan of people instead of “clean energy”.

How can this devastation, which affects the future of the whole world, be prevented? As a movement with an ecological paradigm, what role do you see for yourself in this regard?

As the Kurdish freedom movement, we have responsibilities in the face of ecological problems. At the moment, we are experiencing the weight of not being able to fulfill this sufficiently. As we have mentioned, it is a fact that we are lacking in the practice of the ecological content of our paradigm. Despite the deepening ecological destruction in Kurdistan and around the world, sensitivity and ecological consciousness on this issue have not yet been sufficiently formed. We are also responsible for developing this in order to make our struggle as ecological as its paradigm. We are aware that we need to act faster and more effectively to compensate for this delay. Our aims for solutions must correspond to this. If the existing potential is utilized by combining the ideological depth and power of the people offered by our paradigm, we can develop the alternative, radical, and social ecological struggle that we need today. As always, the solution is possible through an organized, conscious struggle. Since ecological destruction is an attack on the right to life, this cannot be a struggle to be waged only by ecologists and ecological movements. In its simplest form, even within the framework of self-defense, we have to defend our lives. If every individual takes action to protect life, soil, water, and air, we can, of course, stop the current course and succeed. Everyone needs to play a role in this.