The rector of Middle Eastern Technical University (ODTÜ) has expressed his fury at Ankara Metropolitan Municipality for entering the school’s campus at night without permission to clear-cut trees as part of a controversial road construction project in the capital.
“ODTÜ has given its permission for the road project. But we don’t approve the midnight raid nor consider it a good-willed approach. What’s been done is entirely illegal,” Ahmet Acar said, emphasizing that the municipality workers had entered ODTÜ land without permission.
“We will bring the matter to justice. It is impossible to determine during works at night if the trees cut down will be transported [to be replanted] somewhere else,” Acar said.
The much-criticized project threatens to destroy 3,000 trees in ODTÜ’s leafy campus; only 600 of the trees can be replanted. The project envisages the construction of two roads on ODTÜ land. One of the roads, the smaller one, will still be constructed as planned, while the second will be replaced by a tunnel to minimize environmental damage.
The environmental impact of the project triggered strong reactions among students and activists who have staged a number of demonstrations to protest the decision. The police’s repeated crackdowns on protests with water cannon and tear gas stirred protests in solidarity across the country throughout the month of September. A 22-year-old, Ahmet Atakan, died in the southern province of Hatay during one such protest.
Despite the contentious nature of the project, road construction teams and heavy machinery entered the ODTÜ campus at around 10 p.m. on the night of Oct. 18, the last day of the Feast of Sacrifice, as the campus was mostly empty of students.
Some trees were cut down during the construction work as a large number of police officers escorted the workers.
Police resorted to tear gas against a group of protesters who gathered after calls via social media.
ODTÜ’s rector had adopted a conciliatory tone during the events, repeatedly calling on both parties to solve the issue with an agreement.
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