Parliament sides with villagers against military over evacuation


Parliament has given full support to a village whose residents risk evacuation due to the Naval Forces’ intentions of constructing a base in the region. The village of Sultaniye in Köyce?iz, Mu?la province, has been fighting a battle against the neighboring Aksaz Naval Base Command for the past 30 years.
In 1982 the command said it would like to evacuate a part of Sultaniye, citing security reasons. Residents of the village tried every avenue they could find to fight being forced out of their homes. In their legal battle, the Court of Accounts, charged by Parliament with the task of preparing a report on the conflict, gave them some leverage, finding in its report that the villagers have the right to stay and that any evacuation would be a violation of the Constitution.
Another victory for the villagers came with a parliamentary commission announcing its support for the village. In a statement to Today’s Zaman, the head of Parliament’s Complaints Commission, Yahya Akman, said: “They want to evacuate the village, not to build a naval base, but to free up some space for a beach for the military. We will be on the side of the villagers in this fight,” he said. The commission — which will soon be replaced by an ombudsman’s office — recently completed the report, following a months-long investigation into the dispute in Sultaniye.
The commission acts as an ombudsman’s office, although the ombudsman system has yet to be established. The report finds that the villagers who risk losing their homes have been settled in the area for centuries. “There is no way to classify the villagers as ‘invading’ any land. The opposite is true. The demands of the Aksaz Naval Base call for a settlement to be invaded.”
The report also found that the expansion of the base was not for military necessities but to construct social facilities for the officers who use the base. The commission also criticized all public agencies and courts that have ruled for evacuation of the villagers.Giving details on the commission’s report, Akman said: “The Aksaz Naval Base does not have strategic importance in terms of national security, and anyone with average intelligence could see that. This is why the facilities that are part of the base’s educational center do not call for a military zone in the area.”
The report also said that the base’s facilities were mostly used in summer, and not for military purposes. Akman also underlined that the village was not positioned in a location that could in any way pose a threat to the security of the base. Recalling the Naval Forces’ argument that none of the villagers legally owned the land, Akman said the villagers had some land registry documents. “Plus, even the gravestones in the cemetery make it clear that the villagers were there before the base.”
He said the report found that the Aksaz Naval Base was a summer camp, where some naval ships were brought temporarily after the Aug. 17, 1999 earthquake. “This center functions as a summer camp for vacationers. It really doesn’t have the characteristics of a military facility. The buildings they erected in this area are obviously social facilities. We think the villagers are right in this conflict, but state agencies tend to side with the military whenever there is a conflict between locals and a military institution.”
Village Mukhtar Rahim Y?ld?rm said they were going to the European Court of Human Rights if they fail to find a legal remedy for their situation. He said the Defense Ministry simply ignored about 40 houses in the region when they declared a military zone in the area. “This neighborhood is about three kilometers from the military camp and 18 kilometers from the base itself. It is also not as if the villagers moved here and settled here after the base.”
How it all began

In 1982 the Aksaz Naval Base Command said it wanted to evacuate a part of Sultaniye, citing security reasons. Residents of the village tried everything they could think of to fight being forced out of their homes. The villagers have so far applied to the General Staff, the Defense Ministry and the Environment Ministry, which have so far sided with the Naval Forces.
The land that hosts the Büyükkara?aç neighborhood of Sultaniye was, its residents say, unjustly given to the Aksaz Naval Base. Residents were treated as “invaders” for a long time and pressured to leave their homes. A commission in Parliament was set up to look into the conflict. Reports from the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said the village had been allotted to the naval base for 99 years by a decree issued in 1982, and that the villagers would have no claims on it. However, the commission was not satisfied with the answer and started investigating similar incidents in other places. It also requested a report from the Court of Accounts.
In its report, the Court of Accounts established that the villagers had been pressured by the exploitation of old legislation and legal loopholes. It also said evacuating residents would bring about serious psychological and sociological problems that would violate the principles of a welfare state enshrined in the Constitution.

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