Authorities detain shopkeepers protesting dam construction in northeastern Turkey

Three shopkeepers were detained following protests against the construction of a dam that will submerge a town and villages in the Yusufeli district of Turkey’s northeastern Artvin province, the Duvar news website reported

Caner Yüksel, İlhan Şeker and Müştak Şeker were taken into custody for starting the protest and were released after police questioning. During the protest the shopkeepers closed their shutters and hung banners that said “No business can be done in a district that’s undergoing construction.”

Residents also marched to a park to support the shopkeepers and raise awareness about the uncertainty in their neighborhoods. The demonstrators pointed out that they were protesting for their right to live safely and decently.

Construction of the Yusufeli Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant (HEPP) on the Çoruh River began on February 26, 2013. Yusufeli Dam will be the highest in Turkey, at 275 meters, and it is expected that approximately 5,000 residences, 270 workplaces and 943 acres of agricultural land in the district center and villages will be under water.

The town will have to move to another location, but according to residents and shopkeepers the new settlement lacks infrastructure.

“Authorities said what is necessary will be done, but nothing has been done so far. They are trying to move us to the new settlement in a couple of months, but there are serious problems they haven’t considered. School will start in a few weeks, and our children are very stressed. That’s why many families have tried to make their voices heard, but they have failed,” said Ali Uğur Sözbilir, who lives in Yusufeli. The residents and shopkeepers of Yusufeli added that they would keep protesting until the officials heard their voices. 

“We only want our town  to be preserved and will fight for that until the end,” said Barış Demirci from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in a speech during the demonstration. Demirci also stated that the new settlement was not habitable and that the authorities were responsible for finding a solution.

Some families were relocated to Yusufeli in 2011 from another town because it was also submerged under a dam. They will have to move a second time once the dam is constructed along with another 1,000 families.

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