Rights defender Halime Şaman is a member of Marmaris Kent Konseyi Çevreden Sorumlu Yürütme Kurulu (Marmaris City Council Environmental Executive Committee) and the spokesperson for Muğla Environmental Platform (MUÇEP). Şaman has been sued for damages by Sinpaş GYO due to her statements about the company’s ongoing hotel and time-share housing constructions in İçmeler.
Born in 1966, Halime Şaman is a retired biologist and economist. She has lived in Bursa for many years and worked for a pharmaceutical company. She moved to Marmaris Armutalan with her husband after she retired on disability. She has taken an active part in the Marmaris ecology movement for three years, which she views as a platform to express herself. She is a member of the Marmaris City Council Environmental Executive Committee and the spokesperson for Muğla Environmental Platform (MUÇEP).
Şaman claims that three years ago Marmaris’ agenda wasn’t as busy as it is today, and that the relentless construction sector in the region has forced rights defenders to take on a more aggressive stance. Whereas before they could prevent an application for a geothermal energy plant (JES) with a simple petition, these days they have to file a lawsuit or they get sued themselves.
The current issues of priority for the ecology struggle in Marmaris include the marina that’s been planned for Karasöğüt, the changes in the Hisarönü development plan, the attempt to open up a stone quarry in Karasöğüt, and the recent hotel and time-share housing projects planned by Sinpaş GYO in İçmeler Kızılbük. This last project has been going on for 30 years and it is the project for which Halime Şaman has been sued for damages.
The construction was initiated by business person Emin Hattat 30 years ago and was sold to Sinpaş after he filed for bankruptcy. In August of 2021, the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning decided that the hotel construction didn’t require the Environmental Impact Assessment (ÇED).
This decision got pushback from environmentalists. Halime Şaman stated in a press briefing at the time: “This is the only point of entry to the Marmaris harbour. Any environmental pollution to happen here will affect both the open sea and the Gulf of Marmaris – which is an inland sea that doesn’t have the capability to clean itself. The project file states that there will be drilling in an area covering 200 square metres. This is impossible with the current nature of things. The project presentation file is full of mistakes. Its most fundamental problem is that it doesn’t say where the hot water containing toxic substances removed from the drilling will be dumped. Such a project file doesn’t have a chance to be approved. This is why it’s being approved as though the drilling has already been done.”
On September 16th 2021, Şaman received a summons at her home. Sinpaş GYO had filed a lawsuit against her for damages. In the case overseen at the 5th Commercial Court of First Instance, the plaintiffs Sinpaş GYO and Kızılbük GYO demanded a compensation of 300 thousand Turkish Lira from Halime Şaman on the grounds of unfair competition for which Şaman’s press statements were offered as evidence.
The second hearing of the case took place on December 28th, 2021. Şaman stated in her defence: “I have not shared any information that the plaintiffs didn’t already possess. If there are any holes or mistakes in the information that I’ve shared, it is sourced by the plaintiffs themselves because I’ve only shared information based on open sources and plaintiff files. It is my duty as a civil servant to disclose these matters to the public. I am a retired person, how can I unfairly compete with two giant real estate investing companies?” The court decided to postpone the next hearing to March 8th, 2022.
Halime Şaman claims that the 56th clause of the Constitution and the city council regulations give her a responsibility, and that she is exercising her freedom of speech in accordance with this responsibility. She believes that the plaintiffs reserving a right to material compensation is used to deter her from making more statements. Having to travel from Marmaris to Istanbul for the hearings is an extra economic burden for Şaman.
Marmaris City Council has issued a written statement about the case, claiming that lawsuits for damages are utilised to put pressure on rights defenders under the law. Their statement also claims: “We want the public to know that we will not turn a blind eye to greed, to those who undermine civil rights, and to those who covet and even invade what belongs not to one particular person but to everyone, and that no lawsuit for damages material or moral will intimidate us. As Ege Kent Konseyleri Birliği (Aegean City Councils Union), we declare that we are a party in this case and that Marmaris City Council Executive Committee member Halime Şaman is not alone.” The statement was signed by 85 NGOs and individuals.
On January 10th 2022, the rights defenders of Marmaris went to the construction site accompanied by a reporter from Oksijen Newspaper. Sinpaş officials blocked the group, which included Halime Şaman. Seeing that Şaman was talking to the reporter, Sinpaş officials accused her of “giving interviews to leftist and PKK-supporting newspapers”, and tried to provoke the workers by claiming that Şaman was “trying to take their jobs away”.
Making a statement in front of the Istanbul Courthouse before the hearing on March 8, 2022, Halime Şaman noted that the “EIA is not required” decision given to the Karacaöğüt Yacht Harbor Project was canceled by the court, and that they expect the same decision to be made for the timeshare project in Kızılbük.
The third hearing on 25 May 2022 was held as an e-trial and was postponed to 28 September 2022.
Muğla 3rd Administrative Court annulled the decision of "environmental impact assessment (EIA) is not required" regarding the project on 3 August 2022. Despite the court's annulment of the decision, Sinpas GYO continued construction for five days. Thereupon, the people of the region submitted petitions to the municipality and district governor's office demanding the implementation of the decision by attaching the court decision. In case of no action, they prepared the criminal complaints to be submitted to the prosecutor's office. Marmaris Municipality sealed the construction site five days later.
Marmaris City Council members, including Halime Şaman, who went to check the area after the sealing process, announced that the company's activities continue and construction equipment has entered the area. In the early hours of August 9, 2022, they started a vigil and invited all the people of Marmaris to join them. Halime Şaman and other defenders were detained by the police that day.
Halime Şaman and other Marmaris City Council members were detained once again on 16 August 2022, on the 5th day of their vigil. First, they were taken to the District Police Headquarters on the grounds that they opposed the "Law on Meetings and Demonstrations" No. 2911. Here, their phones were confiscated. After their statements, they were taken to another police station with the complaint of "violation of workplace immunity". The defenders, who spent the night in custody, were released in the morning after their statements taken.
The fourth hearing of the case in which Şaman was tried was held as an e-trial upon Şaman's request due to the financial and moral burden of travels between Marmaris and Istanbul. The next hearing will be held on January 25, 2023.