[Originally produced and published in Turkish by 1+1 Forum. Interview by Anıl Olcan.Translated by O. Oğul Köseoğlu.]
The slopes of Mount Cudi have been experiencing forest fires for weeks. The fires, which have burned uncontrolled for days in the Cevizdüzü, Anıldı, and Üçkiraz regions, are destroying the environment upon which nearby people and domestic animals depend, as well as wild flora and fauna. Villagers desperately trying to protect their crops and animals are also trying to extinguish the fires, which have spread across a vast area, with their own limited means. So, what do these fires that cannot be (or are not) extinguished tell us? We examine the ideological, historical, and political dimensions of forest fires with University of Minnesota faculty member, The Harry Frank Guggenheim fellow, and environmental historian, Zozan Pehlivan.
Forests have been aflame for weeks on Mount Cudi. Why do these fires break out and what do they lead to?
Zozan Pehlivan: When we talk about Mount Cudi, we are not talking about a high and rocky land. The region is lush and forested, mainly with oak trees. Oaks need a long time to grow, with deep roots that cling strongly to the soil. In addition to preventing soil erosion, they are very important for the abundance and sustainability of groundwater. In addition to oak, depending on the altitude, soil-type and microclimate, Mount Cudi has other trees including Pistacia Terebinthus and wild pear trees, and its lower parts consist of plateaus used for pasture, as well as some arable lands. Mount Cudi and its surroundings are highly suitable for agriculture and animal husbandry, and a large population relies on the regional natural environment for its livelihood. Forest fires not only reduce biodiversity and destroy trees, but also eliminate all other wildlife. As droughts caused by global climate change increase, the higher frequency of forest fires damages groundwater as well.
The people living in the villages around Mount Cudi call these fires "applications (uygulama)," as they are not extinguished for long periods.
This is a rather interesting description. The term "application" refers to "a practical operation conducted with a certain rationale, strategy and program." The characterization of these fires as "applications" refers to the fact that they are the result of a systematic policy, and therefore represent one aspect of an experience of violence spread across time and space. The experiences of the locals around Mount Cudi and the stories disseminated in the media are quite different. While the public is served news of "simple" forest fires, the local experience is far more comprehensive. Locals have varied relationships with Mount Cudi and the surrounding area: They pick wild fruits from the forest and sell them; collect deadwood to burn in the winter; and graze their herds in the grasslands around the forest. Practices like deadwood collection also benefit forest health by preventing the rapid spread of wildfires when they occur. Local lives are intertwined with the forest. Moreover, the forest is close to the villagers' orchards and gardens. Because the boundaries between the orchards as well as vineyards and the forest are not highly defined, any fire in the forests affects villagers’ lives. Furthermore, the timing of these fires indicates the existence of an articulated state logic that has been directed against the agrarian economy. According to the World Forest Fires Database, between 2003 and 2016, fires in the region were most frequent in the July-September period, the harvest season in the region. The duration of the wildfires and the area affected by them varies from region to region. Fires that normally last three to four days may continue for up to twenty days in some areas. Wildfires which last for such long periods bring about dreadful ecological destruction.
Is it normal for a forest fire to last that long? Are there any possible interventions, or are they simply not possible?
In order to answer this question, we need to think about the areas where these forest fires are most concentrated. According to the World Forest Fires data, the areas where fires are most common in the region are the northeast and southeast countryside of the Diyarbakir-Batman-Bitlis triangle. The second main region in terms of density is around Siirt, Hakkari, and Şırnak. Across both areas, some fires may have been caused by natural conditions, some may have been caused by efforts to open land for agriculture, and some may have been started by security forces. But beyond how the fires start, we should focus on how and why these areas are allowed to burn for days. Information from the region indicates that villagers who try to extinguish the fires themselves are prevented on "security" grounds. In this context, we can argue most of these fires are started with a certain mentality and vision that is part of a larger ideological engineering plan.
What might the ideological engineering plan be?
For the villagers who are victims of fires in Cudi, and those who have supposedly been tamed by power cuts in Mardin over the summer of 2020, their struggle is closely related to the other violence inflicted on them. Endless dam construction, power outages, and forest fires are three social engineering projects linked through intricate socio-political relations, with ecology at the center of each. In the last two decades, an incredible number of guardhouses, or as they call them locally, "castle-stations (kalekol)," have been built in areas where forest fires are most intense. These castle-stations are built on dominant hills like medieval fortified citadels, with the forest areas around them radically trimmed. On top of that, the forests and plateaus around the castle-stations were declared high security zones and closed to civilian access. This ideological engineering plan has two goals: The first is to widen the field of vision of the castle-stations as much as possible, as the field of view in forested and forest-free areas are completely different. By burning the forest, the security forces are not only clearing the field of view, but also eliminating possible dangers. Similarly, during the Vietnam war, the United States used heavy chemicals that caused woodland plants to dry out and shed their leaves. The second important goal is to force the population in the region to migrate by making it difficult to access natural resources, or even preventing that access completely. A third aim is to use forest fires to increase local security concerns, creating instability and spreading the politics of fear by slaughtering nature itself.
Do you mean there is an environment of hot war and conflict in the region today?
Although we are going through a period without hot conflicts between the Turkish army and the fighters of the Kurdish separatist movement, forest fires are actually increasing. During the peace process (2009-2015) between the Turkish government and Kurdish separatist movement, people returned to their villages and planted thousands of fruit trees in their orchards. But today, those gardens have been reduced to ashes because of the wildfires. This indicates that these experiences are parts of a major re-engineering plan, and I think one of the aims is to force these people to migrate once again.
Villagers living in areas where fires take place say they have had to take their animals elsewhere to graze. What does this mean?
This is a great risk. Animal grazing depends on local knowledge of geography. Mount Cudi, Mount Gabar, and the Farashin Plateau have been grazing areas for Kurdish tribes since the nineteenth century. In order to graze successfully, the villagers have to know their environment very well. This knowledge is not formed in three or five years, but is a matter of knowledge accumulated and transferred over centuries. At a basic level, villagers need to know things like where the land is less rough, where the animals can find better grass, and where water sources are located. Because of the fires, villagers have had to take their animals to graze outside their customary grounds. This can pose risks for villagers, for example, if they have to move to stony lands. While sheep, goats, and mules can walk on stony ground, cattle cannot. If cattle die because of this, it means huge economic losses. In addition, it is very important to know whether there are toxic herbs that could poison the animals in so-called "marginal" areas. Many villagers are economically dependent on their herds and having to graze them in these “marginal” areas is pushing them into great danger. In addition, there is the issue of security. When villagers take their herds to marginal land to graze, they cannot foresee attacks by wolves or other predators. When you feel insecure, you want to leave where you live. Many of the people who were forced to migrate from their villages in the 90s to the outskirts of large cities, where they suffer terrible labor exploitation in textile workshops, want to return to their villages. And some of them can do that. But some of those who return face threats like these. So, the aim is to destabilize the whole region by ravaging the areas that enable economic activity in the villages. Fires are part of a modern dehumanization strategy with multiple pillars ...
What do you mean by a dehumanization strategy?
What I mean by dehumanization is the violent displacement of the local population through a systematic policy. The policies of today are quite different from the strategies of the 1990s, which involved burning down whole villages. But when a forest is in flames, it is not the only thing that burns. There are lives tied to that forest. Locals put beehives in the forest, and they collect firewood to keep warm. In late spring and summer, they prune fresh oaks and collect bundles of branches. After the bundles are stacked, they are tightly covered so as to not dry out in the heat of summer. During the winter, oak leaves are a source of nutrition for animals. They are called "velg" in Zazakî, a dialect of Kurdish. The remaining dry branches are used for cooking and heating. They are called "percin." The forest is an important source of energy for the people in the region. In addition, areas where fires break out are lands with pastures. Good highlands grass is harvested in spring to feed the animals during the next winter, while animals graze the remaining grass which is too short to scythe. When these areas are set on fire, it wreaks havoc on stockbreeding, which is one of the most important sources of income for villagers.
Was the inability to feed animals the reason why the local population has to leave the villages?
Not being able to feed their livestock directly affects villagers in terms of health, nutrition, and, especially, economics. Poor feeding not only causes weight loss, but also leaves animals vulnerable to disease. Milk and meat productivity seriously decrease. Due to the fluctuation in milk production, the income and nutritional resources of the villagers also significantly decline. In addition, changes in dietary diversity and type, or in protein and calcium sources, directly affect people’s health and physical capacity.
What are the other pillars of the dehumanization strategy?
Let's take a look at the power cuts by DEDAŞ (Dicle Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd.) in rural neighborhoods in Mardin at the beginning of July. DEDAŞ was privatized in 2013. After the privatization, prices were substantially increased. According to data obtained from the region, villagers are billed high amounts without any meters and therefore without disclosing the amount of electricity used. Villagers cannot pay the exorbitant bills, and DEDAŞ has blocked government support packages using the pretext of unpaid invoices. Electricity is vital for villagers both for irrigation and for providing water for animals. Without electricity, villagers’ fields will dry out, and their animals will perish from thirst. Photos of the sheep that perished due to dehydration because DEDAŞ failed to provide electricity around Mardin were posted on social media. So, what can the villagers do? They try to sell their surviving animals cheaply and leave their lands. This is a version of forced migration.
You mentioned dams as another example of dehumanizing practices. Despite years of objections and efforts to prevent it, Hasankeyf was recently submerged by the Ilısu dam. Is the construction of dams a common practice for dehumanization policies? How do dams affect the ecological balance?
This region, the homeland of Tigris and the Euphrates, is where Turkey's most important water sources are located. Over the last fifty years, tens of large dams have been built on all branches of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers as a part of the Southeast Anatolia Project, or GAP. The main aim of these dams is to provide irrigation water for agricultural production on the Mesopotamian plains and to generate electricity for mostly industrialized western provinces of the country. This is not an agricultural system that feeds the villagers and small producers, but rather one which has aimed, since the 70s, to create industrial agricultural areas. This led to the destruction of Thrace under the leadership of Turgut Özal in the 80s. The Turkish government want to open up all arable land to commercial agriculture in the region from Urfa to the Botan river. It is possible to argue that dehumanization policies transform along with the global political moment. Until the first half of the 1980s, Turkey did not pursue such policies, but in the 1990s the dehumanization of the countryside began. I believe the recent politics of dehumanization are directly related to the Syrian civil war that began in 2011. The current dehumanization policy is also a policy for "dekurdification" in the region. We need to consider this together with the Syrian civil war and the Rojava revolution. During the 2014 attempted IS occupation of Kobane, a tremendous solidarity appeared on the Turkish side of the border. The ruling wing saw the emerging solidarity between two peoples who spoke the same language but are separated by modern borders as a major threat and decided to suppress it. Therefore, in reaction to the Rojava revolution, the southern territory is being subjected to a dehumanization strategy in Turkey. I believe the government’s aim is to settle around four million Syrian refugees around the southern and eastern borders, from Urfa to the Botan river, after the dehumanization policies are completely implemented. This will not only create a vast agricultural labor force but will also build a demographic barrier between the Kurdish populations who are already isolated from each other by modern borders.
You have studied the environment of the region in your article titled “El Niño and the Nomads: Global Climate, Local Environment, and the Crisis of Pastoralism in Late Ottoman Kurdistan (Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient, 2020).” What is the region that you call Ottoman Kurdistan, and what are the features of its ecology?
The region we call Ottoman Kurdistan starts from north of Van lake, stretches over towards the east of Sivas, and reaches to the south of the area called Ras al-Ayn today. We are talking about a large geography that encompasses Hakkari, Şırnak, Van, and the plains north of Mosul to the east (Map, Topography of Ottoman Kurdistan). Mountain ranges envelop the region, but it is not entirely mountainous. The eastern edge of Taurus mountains, on the Mediterranean coast, connects to the Zagros mountains, extending towards Iran over Hakkari. The eastern part of the Taurus mountains slices through Kurdistan and forms a crescent. The Kurdish part of the Taurus is not similar to the mountains that lie across the eastern coast of the Black Sea. Between the mountains, there are plains and plateaus of various heights, several rivers such as the Murat, Euphrates, Tigris, Batman, and Botan, and the valleys formed by these rivers. We should also note the Van lake, the crater lakes at Mount Nemrut, and Lake Hazar around Harput. The region has vast plains such as in Muş, Harput, Beşiri, Palu, Urfa, and Diyarbekir, in the highlands of the Eastern Taurus mountains. In higher parts, there are plateaus stretching along the mountain slopes. The famous poet Ahmet Arif, in his "Notes from the Castle of Diyarbakir" wrote: "Blood-red flowers bloom, as the snow falls, Mount Karaca flutters, flutters zozan ..." The word "zozan" means plateau in Kurdish. The area mentioned by Ahmet Arif in the poem is the lower part of the Diyarbakir plain. Since the blood-red flowers bloom, it seems spring has come to the plain. But there is snow on Mount Karaca, located at the southwest of Diyarbakir. Ahmed Arif's poetry describes the ecological diversity of the region very well. I define the nature of Ottoman Kurdistan as an ecological threshold.
What do you mean by ecological threshold?
When you envision this region, do not only think of mountainous terrain. On the contrary, we are talking about a rich geography where plains, riverbeds, and plateaus coexist. By ecological threshold, I mean the ecological differentiation of one region or geography from another. Ottoman Kurdistan is neither as flat as central Anatolia nor as mountainous as western Iran but includes both flat and mountainous parts. The difference in elevation between the north and south parts is very high. In addition to the elevation, we are talking about a region formed by deep river valleys. The flora varies depending on these elevations, too. That is why I define it as an ecological threshold.
In the 17th century, Evliya Celebi visited the region and described the poplar trees of Van, and the grapes of Bitlis. How have travelers described the ecology of the region?
In the nineteenth century, European travelers rushed to the region. There are many travelers who talk about the gardens of Van, the walnut trees of Bitlis, and the vineyards of Mardin. Robert Dankoff (1990) translated and compiled the Bitlis section of Evliya Celebi's Seyahatnâme (Book of Travels) and published it with the title Evliya Çelebi in Bitlis. In the book, Evliya Celebi thoroughly describes Abdal Han, the bey of Bitlis, the town of Bitlis, and its surroundings. Later on, he travels through other regions of the Ottoman Kurdistan and writes about many cities in the fourth volume of his Seyahatnâme. He elaborates on the geography, culture, and languages, and writes endlessly about the fertility of the Hevsel gardens in Diyarbekir, and the taste of the fruits and vegetables grown there, comparing Hevsel to Egypt's famous Fayyum gardens. He explains in detail the importance of the Reyhan (purple basil) gardens in Hevsel, describing its scent and color. This is the same area where the famous Diyarbakir watermelon is grown. It is known that there is a wide variety of ecological life in these gardens. In addition to being an important agricultural area that meets the vegetable and fruit needs of the city, the Hevsel gardens host a rich variety of wildlife from birds to foxes, while also serving people as an important summertime area where Diyarbakir residents spent their hot summer months.
Diyarbekir and Diyarbakir, you use both versions of the name. What do the two versions correspond to?
Names of places are important both historically and in terms of remembering the various ways people relate to place. Until 1937 the name of present-day Diyarbakir was Diyarbekir. In earlier periods, it was also called Amid, Amida, and Kara Amid. The Armenian name of the city was Tigranakert. I prefer to use "Diyarbekir" when talking about the Ottoman period and "Diyarbakir" for the period after 1937.
Were there any forests in the region in the Ottoman period, or did the afforestation projects come later on?
In the nineteenth century, forests were most dense in Bingöl, Dersim, Bitlis, Siirt, Hakkari, Birecik, and the highlands of Tur Abdin. The flora here mainly consisted of oak. The type and quality of oak varies according to elevation, climate and soil type. There are short oak trees in the lower and arid regions, and magnificent oak trees in higher areas. Even though rare, we know from archive documents there were also forests in the higher parts of Hakkari.
Can we still see the ecological diversity of the nineteenth century in the region?
When we look at the current geographical distribution of forests in the region, we can say that it is not very different from the nineteenth century, although the areas where large dams have been built must be excluded from this. These dams do not only hold water and generate electricity, but also have the capacity to directly affect the vegetation and rainfall regime. The Bingöl and Dersim areas have the most concentrated forests in todays’ Ottoman Kurdistan. There are also forested areas in the highlands of Siirt, in Lice and Kulp to the northeast of Diyarbakir, in the Batman countryside, around the Bitlis stream, and along the Murat river, the area we call Ottoman Harput. Today, there are large forest areas in the rural areas of Hakkari and Şırnak. There are weeping willow trees in the southern parts of Van, and dense walnut trees in Bitlis and Siirt. In addition to pine and walnut trees, there are juniper trees around Cizre and on the banks of the Khabur and Great Zab rivers. Also, poplar trees exist in great numbers particularly in the lower wet areas of the region. Since they were very abundant, up until recently, they commonly used by the construction and transportation sectors. Poplars were the most striking trees in the gardens of Van, as depicted by the travelers of the nineteenth century. Poplars were so common that there are quite a few idioms about the poplar tree in the Zazakî dialect of Kurdish. People who are fickle, who act "as the wind blows" like the poplar leaves are called zey pele hevriri.
Was destruction of nature a method used in the Ottoman Empire for security reasons? Are the current wildfire "applications" based on a historical practice?
In the nineteenth century, the Ottomans fought many wars: the Russian war in the 1820s, the Bedirxan Rebellion in 1846, the Crimean War of 1854-56, the Ottoman-Russian War in 1877-78, and then WWI after the organized pogroms against the Ottoman Armenians in the 1890s ... The region was directly affected by all these conflicts. War means providing food for an entire army. You need draft animals to transport food, artillery, and military equipment for the army. Casting iron cannons and cannonballs also depends on natural resources. Of course, there was environmental damage in the course of these conflicts. However, I have not come across any event in archival documents similar to the region-wide wildfires we see today. While great destruction must have occurred in conflict zones, I have not come across any systematic eradication. Seeing nature as an object for domination has its roots in the distant past. The nineteenth century was the golden age for humankind's domination of nature, with the apparatus of the modern state as the main actor. We can see dam construction, swamp drainage, and changing riverbeds as important parts of this project of domination. For example, beginning in the 1830s, the Çukurova plain began to be transformed into one of the largest cotton production areas in Turkey. This region is home to a significant nomadic population. It was only possible to open the region to agricultural production by forcing nomadic tribes to adopt a settled lifestyle, and so in 1865-66, Ahmed Cevdet Pasha’s Fırka-i Islahiye (Division of Correction) verdict did just that. The process caused the utmost bloodshed. We know the nomadic tribes were forcibly displaced as the Ottoman Empire centralized and modernized, because settled life enables state control. All officials, from tax officers to police officers, need to know which village to go to. It is very difficult to establish a state authority over an area where communities are constantly in motion. For the state, nomads are always “a headache” and are seen as social groups that require strict restrictions. In this region, in addition to the nomads, there were Chechen, Circassian, and Nogai refugees, who had been settled there beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. By placing Muslim refugees here, the state was trying to create a workforce. In her book Nomads, Migrants and Cotton in the Eastern Mediterranean: The Making of the Adana-Mersin Region, Meltem Toksöz describes these tremendous environmental, economic, and demographic changes, how the population was affected by the drainage of the swamps, and how the workforce and socio-economic relations were transformed.
You said this transformation brought the "utmost bloodshed." What happened, and how did it take place?
The tent is the home of the nomad. The tents of tribes who refused to settle were burned by the Ottoman army in 1860s. It is possible to make comparisons between the villagers whose homes were burned down in the 1990s and the violence experienced by the tribes persecuted by the Fırka-i Islahiye in 1865. After the Fırka-i Islahiye force was founded, it was sent to the region in the spring of 1865 under the leadership of Ahmet Cevdet Pasha, and began implementing the politics of forced settlement. Those who resisted were subjected to great violence. In addition, the death toll from malaria rose unbelievably as the population increased around swampy land, both drained and undrained. Researching Ottoman Kurdistan, I did not come across any evidence of a systematic policy of tent-burning between the 1840s and 1890s. However, we can read from newspaper reports of the time that in 1909 two villages belonging to the Haydaranlı nomads in Dersim (today’s Tunceli) were completely burned and sheep and cattle belonging to the villagers were confiscated by the Ottoman army. Serhat Bozkurt, in his 2018 article in Kürt Tarihi (Kurdish History) describes in detail how and on what grounds the villages of Haydaranlı were burned down.
Can we say that the village burning practices in the early Republican era were an example for village burning campaigns in the 90s?
Even though the motivation to "discipline" is similar, the parameters, targets and scale, both temporal and physical, were completely different. After the Sheikh Said uprising in 1925, dozens of Kurdish villages were accused of supporting the insurgency and were targeted as a result. Many villages in the Diyarbekir countryside were set on fire, their herds were confiscated, and the male population was executed by firing squads. Nature, of course, was also affected by this wave of violence. During this period, not only the centers of the villages, but also vineyards, gardens, pastures, and woodlands on their peripheries were burned. Sheep and cattle both in the stables and on pastures died. Serhat Aslan (2017), in his article “Nature/Ecology Massacres in Kurdistan,” in Toplum ve Kuram (Society and Theory), provides details from an official report describing a military operation from the fall of 1927. The report stated that not only were people killed, but the evacuated villages were also burned down, and large herds of animals belonging to the villagers were confiscated. A similar massacre was perpetrated in Dersim in 1938, and the environmental impact of bombardments with military aircraft lasted for decades. However, the geographical, economic, and political dimensions of the village burnings of the 1920s and the 1990s were quite different.
In the 1925 Sheikh Said uprising and the 1938 Dersim massacre, attacks were carried out by geographically targeting specific regions. In the 1990s, the geographical and temporal scale was much larger, as the state targeted the entire area in which guerrillas (fighters of the Kurdish Separatist movement in Turkey) fought against the state, and at the same time the people of that whole region were also targeted. The main motivation was the idea that the state needed to cut off the rural vessels that fed the movement with fresh blood. That meant disrupting the relations between people and places. Here we see the critical importance of "political geography." Targeting and destroying the resources of the village economy and its natural environment eliminated the conditions that made villagers’ lives possible. Moreover, setting fire to their pastures, forests and gardens prevented any possibility of return.
Ecological destruction is inevitably intertwined with human destruction, is it not?
Of course. Although humans see ourselves as beings that dominate nature, we are only a part of nature. A wildfire, a flood or a drought not only changes someone's life, but also radically changes their political and cultural activities. From the early 1900s to the 1980s, thousands of villages were renamed in Turkey because their names were in Armenian, Greek or Kurdish. Not only the names of villages, but also the names of the train stations that shape public space were changed. This was part of the Turkification policy of Anatolia. People develop relationships of belonging with their lands, their trees, flowers, animals, and water, which is emotional as much as economic. When someone loses this relationship, they lose the things that make them who they are. The aim behind the village evacuations of the 90s was to disrupt the relation the people in this place had developed with their culture and language. It is much harder to disrupt this relationship when people remain in their homes/native lands.
What kind of economic consequences did this ecological destruction bring?
The Diyarbakir, Palu, Muş, Beşiri, Silvan, and Harput plains were agrarian centers that fed the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The region produced a significant amount of grain, barley, millet, lentil, and chickpeas, and rice was also planted. These regions also produced, dried, and marketed significant amounts of vegetables and fruits. Viticulture (grape growing) was very advanced. We are talking about an area where Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen, Nestorian, and some Armenian communities lived nomadic lifestyles. These people had millions of animals, including sheep, goats, cattle, horses, mules, and camels. There was a developed economy that relied on livestock. It was the breadbasket of the empire in the east. Livestock was exported to Syria and Egypt; wheat was sent to Baghdad and Mosul… And now, let us go to the 1990s: In the 1990s, between 2,500 and 3,300 villages were evacuated, depending on which source you consult. This policy had three pillars. First, some villages were completely set on fire. Second, the villagers were forced to migrate. Third, the peripheries of the villages were destabilized. The exact number of displaced people is not certain. Sources mention that between two and four million people had to migrate. Forcing around four million people to migrate means killing the economic life of an entire region. Products including cereal, pulses, tobacco, and fruit disappeared. In addition, the migrants owned millions of animals. In his study of late Ottoman statistics, Tevfik Güran (1997) writes there were several million sheep and goats in Diyarbekir alone. According to Mehmet Gürses’s 2012 article, between 1991 and 2000, Diyarbakir experienced a one-third decrease in the population of sheep and goats. In Dersim, this loss rate was around seventy percent. The loss in Dargeçit, a district of Mardin, was stunning. Between 1991-2000, sixty percent of cattle, ninety percent of sheep, and more than seventy percent of goats disappeared from Dargeçit. Those are frightening rates, which meant changes to the socio-economic classes in the region, the current capital at hand, and the means and equipment for production. At the same time, there was the issue of animals that could not be sold and had to be abandoned. Hundreds of donkeys were left without their owners. When stray donkeys approached military stations at night, they were killed by soldiers.
Coming back to the present day, we started with the fire in Mount Cudi ... And on the other hand, a very large woodland is burning in Ayvalık, as large wildfires also continue burning in the forests of California. Forest fires lasted for weeks in Australia last summer. Some also argue that there is a link between the COVID-19 pandemic and the change in the ecological balance. What do you think about the proposed link between the pandemic and wildfires or deforestation?
In addition to forest fires that last for weeks and are caused by global warming, as in Australia and California, there is also serious deforestation which aims to clear land for agricultural or mining activities, quarries and development. When we look at the location of the fire in Ayvalık, we see an interesting picture. The fire, which affected eighty hectares, broke out in an area intended to be opened for urban construction. Although the official cause of the fire was electricity poles, it is common to start fires in order to open new areas for urban development. It is important to note that such fires have increased particularly in the last fifteen to twenty years, and to consider this within the context of Turkey's construction economy, and the network of relations between several specific construction companies and the institutional state structure. On the other hand, serious deforestation efforts continue in many other parts of the world. In Brazil, the Bolsonaro government is destroying parts of the Amazon forest little by little on a daily basis and turning them into pastures to build cattle farms and export cheap meat to the world. The disappearance of the ecological diversity in the Amazon is a disaster for the planet. Subjecting the Amazon to the policies of the Bolsonaro government is a grave mistake. The destruction of the Amazon will not only bring about the end of the indigenous population there but will negatively affect the lives of every living being on earth, either directly or indirectly. Deforestation in the Amazon and other parts of the world will significantly reduce the population of creatures vital to the continuation of the biosphere on earth, including bats and reptiles. Moreover, these creatures, whose natural habitats are destroyed, will not only come to areas where there are human settlements, but will spend more time in areas where people farm or keep livestock. That means further penetration of viruses and bacteria from wildlife into human life. Viruses or bacteria transmitted from these animals in places of agriculture and livestock keeping can rapidly move to any corner of the world thanks to globalized trade networks, as the coronavirus responsible for paralyzing our lives today demonstrates.