Pro-Kurdish HPD delegation’s access to forest fire area in Tunceli prevented by Turkish gov’t

Turkish soldiers barred access to a forest fire area to a delegation of deputies from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) that had arrived in Tunceli (Dersim) on Tuesday to take action against the fires, allegedly set by security forces.

Earlier on Tuesday, the HDP delegation left for the Bali Stream, where a wildfire continues to burn, but faced obstacles, first on the Ovacık road and then on the Hozat road, on the grounds of “ongoing military operations in the region.”

According to a report by the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency (ANF), the delegation, made up of HDP Deputy Group Chairperson Ayhan Bilgen, Tunceli deputy Alican Önlü and deputies Mahmut Toğrul, Erkan Baş, Meral Danış Beştaş, Erdal Aydemir, Murat Çepni, Mehmet Tiryaki, Dilşat Canbaz and Kemal Bülbül, was stopped by the police on the Ovacık highway. Blocking the road with barriers, the police refused to allow the HDP deputies to continue on their way.

The deputies then staged a sit-in on the Hozat road in protest of the obstruction before trying to reach the forest fire area through Pertek. The delegation was blocked by Turkish soldiers here as well and was not allowed to enter the Pertek district under orders from District Governor Arif Gül.

The HDP deputies said Governor Tuncay Sonel was pointing to them as targets, stressing that the governor would be responsible for any unfortunate incidents in the area. After their efforts yielded no results, the delegation returned to Tunceli city center, where they were expected to hold a press conference in the evening.

HDP Tunceli Chairperson Songül Erden Şahin claimed that the forests have been set on fire on the pretext of security operations.

A statement released by the Tunceli Governor’s Office on Tuesday said the operations in the region were continuing and that therefore the Dersim-Ovacık highway and road would be closed until the operations have ended.

Folk singer Ferhat Tunç tweeted in response: “We were going to meet with our deputy friends in Dersim today to investigate the forest fires in the area. When we got up, though, we learned that the Dersim-Ovacık road had been closed. Clearly, this is an arbitrary decision to prevent us from going into the fire zone!”

Meanwhile, Turkish media reported on Tuesday that the Turkish army carried out an air operation on the Bali Stream and Munzur Valley in Tunceli’s central countryside. The area where the forest fires are burning was also bombed.

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