Founded in July 1995 against the threat of gold and copper mining in Cerattepe, Green Artvin Association has approximately 425 members and 70 constituents. The members and administrators were targeted and brought to court several times. Some of these trials are in the process of first-degree appeal and some of them are being handled by the Constitutional Court.
The process leading to the foundation of Green Artvin Association began with the research of the Institute of Mineral Exploration and Research at Cerattepe in 1985. It was stated that no economic resources were found as a result of the drilling. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources granted the Canadian company Cominco an exploration and mining license in 1988.
With the pollution and animal deaths observed after the drilling in Cerattepe in 1994, Artvin locals found out what was going on and started their research. Realizing the necessity of an organized struggle, they founded the Green Artvin Association on July 17, 1995. In September of the same year, they invited faculty members from different universities and departments to carry out tests in Cerattepe. A panel discussion called Gold Mining and Its Environmental Factors took place after the examinations. The panel discussion revealed that Artvin locals were right to worry. That’s how their struggle began.
The first demonstration took place in June 1997. They also started a petition and going door to door, got people to sign it. Shopkeepers put up anti-mining posters on their windows. All political parties and NGOs in Artvin were visited and asked for support. Having collected approximately 10 thousand signatures, they took the bus to Ankara in February 1998. They met Imren Aykut, the then minister of environment, and handed in their petition.
Another petition was started against the mining in 2002. This time the signatures collected were presented to the Ministry of Forestry. In the same year, Cominco cancelled their project and handed their license to INMET Mining, another Canadian company.
After a similar struggle in Bergama resulted in a legal victory, Green Artvin Association and Artvin Bar Association went to trial in 2005 and asked for the revocation of the license. The court decided to put the operations on hold in July 2005. In October 2008, the license was completely revoked. After the revocation of the license, the company blockaded the tunnel and left Cerattepe. The revocation of the license was later ratified by the Council of State. Then, Green Artvin Association started to deal with other ecological issues such as hydroelectric power plants.
In the scope of the New Mining Law, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources announced that 1343 mining areas including Artvin Cerattepe and Genya, were going to be put out to tender in March 2011. The process for Artvin restarted in February 2012. Meetings were held, petitions were signed, and they went to Ankara to meet with the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources. ‘No to Mining’ demonstration took place on April 6, 2013, attended by 10 thousand people. Afterward, sit-in protests began on May 3, 2013, in front of the company’s office building. On September 26, 2013, 281 people filed a lawsuit to annul the decision of the Environmental Impact Assessment. The periodic watch that started in 2014 turned into a continuous one in 2015 and stayed on duty 24/7 for 245 days in Cerattepe. The resistance came to an end after the police intervened with teargas and rubber bullets. Six people were detained. Today, Kalyon and Cengiz groups are mining 22 hectares of land.
Artvin Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office took 21 people to court with the charges of blocking the road during the protest on February 16, 2016, and ‘opposing the law on meetings and demonstrations, numbered 2911.’ Green Artvin Association members and administrators were amongst the defendants. Artvin Criminal Court of First Instance ruled that the defendants did not commit the imputed offence and acquitted the President of the association Nur Nese Karahan, the lawyer of the association Bedrettin Kalin alongside Ali Yücel Kurt, Ali Uğur Çağal, Dursun Noyan, Burak Esen and Tolga Odabaş on October 18, 2019.
The judicial process against Green Artvin Association is not limited to this. There are many lawsuits filed against the members and administrators of the association. In addition, Bahattin Altuntaş, Erdem Karslıoğlu and Nurcan Ay Katıcı, the board members of the association, were threatened and insulted on the phone right before the case hearing of the Environmental Impact Assessment decision’s annulment in 2016.
On June 29, 2015, Bahattin Altuntas, an administrator of the association, was put on trial with the charge of obstructing the freedom to work and labor but the criminal case against Altuntas was abated.
In 2016, an indictment was filed against Nur Nese Karahan and association’s administrators Nursal Bulbul and Hikmet Celik with the charge of “occupation and exploitation of forests.” All administrators of the association were acquitted. The case is currently in the appeal process.
Due to the demonstrations that took place on February 1, 2016, 25 people including Nur Nese Karahan were brought to court with the charges of “acting against the bans during meetings and demonstrations” and “attending meetings and demonstrations with weapons.” As 12 people were acquitted on June 23, 2021, 13 people were sentenced 2 years and 1 month of imprisonment for opposing the law numbered 2911.
Regarding the demonstrations that took place on February 17, 2016, 14 people including Nur Nese Karahan, other administrators of the association and civilians, went to trial in Artvin Criminal Court of First Instance with the charges of “attending illegal meetings and demonstrations without weapons and not dispersing despite the warnings.” Some of the defendants were found guilty, some were acquitted and some of the verdicts were deferred. The case is being dealt at the Constitutional Court right now.
There is also a criminal case against Nur Nese Karahan with the charges of “defamation with audio, written or visual message and violation of the freedom to work and labor.” While all defendants were acquitted from the charge of violation of the freedom to work and labor, two defendants’ verdicts were deferred regarding the defamation charge on March 18, 2021.
Green Artvin Association received three awards in 2016. The Chamber of Architects of Turkey Environmental Contribution Award, Turkish Thoracic Society Environment and Climate Issues Award and the Chamber of Geology Engineers plaque of appreciation were given to the association.