Joint statement: In Evros and Canakkale, Greek and Turkish people suffer all the same

We publish below the common statement by the initiative against war and extractions in Turkey-Cyprus-Greece “Kazma Birak-Μας σκάβουν τον λάκκο-Don’t Dig». The initiative was kick-started by 70 (mainly) environmental organisations in the tree countries. Read the statement in Greek here and in Turkish here

Huge wildfires are burning Greece and Turkey again. The sheer scale of the areas that were burned down is gigantic.

In Greece, the fire in Dadia forest near the Evros river is still burning, while the smoke from the fire has reached the Ionian sea! In total, during July and August, more than 1.200.000 acres of forests and farming plains were burned down. 35 people have lost their lives by the wildfires until now, while countless plants and animals have suffered the same fate. 26 refugees were burned alive in Dadia forest in their attempt to cross the borders over to Greece. Tens of thousands were forced to evacuate their homes, and the flames reached the surrounding area of the Alexandroupoli hospital, forcing staff to move all patients. These destructive events are added to similar wildfires that have wrecked Greece in previous years.

Just across the border, in the Canakkale region in Turkey, huge wildfires are also burning thousands of acres of forest areas. Fires also broke out in a number of places all over Turkey. Over 20 villages have been evacuated. There are people who have been injured by the fire, but the exact numbers are not officially announced. The number of dead animals remains unknown. The state is trying to intervene from the air with firefighting planes and helicopters and from the ground with rescue teams and firefighters, but the response is very inadequate.

Who is to blame?

Such destruction cannot be considered “normal”. The government spokesperson in Greece said that this is “the new reality”. We refuse to accept that it is normal for humans, animals and nature to suffer like this every summer.

There are three main perpetrators for these crimes committed all around the world. 

One is the climate crisis. Climate change creates warmer, drier conditions in forests, which then mean that fires can be ignited easier and can spread faster. According to the UN, wildfires are becoming more intense and more frequent. Recent years have seen record-breaking wildfire seasons across the world. We urgently need to fight to stop the climate crisis. Instead, our governments are looking to intensify fossil fuel extraction in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas, and they are even prepared to use their armies against each other in order to secure overseas gas fields. Moreover, they are not taking any meaningful measures to reduce emissions or organize production in an environmentally friendly way. On the contrary, they are sacrificing the environment to serve capitalist interests. 

But there’s more to it than that. Our governments hypocritically use climate change to justify their failure to deal with wildfires. They present it as an external factor for which we cannot do anything about. This helps them hide their responsibilities for dismantling fire prevention and fire fighting services. That is the second perpetrator. As firefighters say “a fire is extinguished with a glass of water in the first second, with a bucket of water in the first minute, with a ton of water in the first ten minutes. Then we do whatever we can…” Governments in Greece and Turkey try to convince us that there is not enough money for those essential services. But the fact is that they choose to spend state money on the arms race, on the police, on supporting their capitalist friends, etc. We should demand more state funds to fire prevention and fire fighting services, with mass recruitment of the personnel needed. 

Thirdly, these fires demonstrate the effects of rapid urbanization driven by profit motives, often leading to displacement and loss of livelihood for marginalized communities, and bringing industrial activity closer to protected areas. These forest fires reflect the severe consequences of unchecked capitalism, highlighting the urgent necessity of sustainable urban planning that prioritizes both the environment and social well-being.

Solidarity across borders

We express our solidarity to all those who suffer from these policies on both sides of the Aegean.

We strive to answer all the lies and nationalist propaganda of each side. In Greece, interior minister Voridis stated that he cannot rule out that the Rhodes fire was set by “turkish agents”. The same propaganda is widespread in Thrace, where local far-right news outlets talk about “turkish spies” igniting fires near the Evros river.

Refugees were also targeted in Greece and were victims of pogroms organised by far-right gangs. These moves serve to obscure the responsibilities of governments and shift the focus to the usual suspects, scapegoating the most vulnerable.

As a common initiative in Turkey, Cyprus and Greece, we will continue to fight a common struggle against climate change and fossil fuel extractions, against environment degradation, against the dismantling and defunding of fire prevention and fire fighting services, for a peaceful and dignified life in our region. Greek and Turkish people face common problems, they should engage in a common battle to solve them!

We make a call for coordinated action between the movements of Turkey, Cyprus and Greece. There are movements in every country against environmental destruction, against fossil fuel extraction, against gold mining, on the issue of energy, ect. These movements will definitely be broadened, deepened and strengthened if they organise joint actions. This is the way forward in our opinion.

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