Demonstrations in Lice, Turkey linked to cannabis harvest?

Article Summary
Although the ongoing protests in the town of Lice in Turkey's Diyarbakir province are ostensibly about the construction of new security outposts, they are linked to the upcoming cannabis harvest and the farmers' desire to keep the security forces out of the region.

Behind the 20 days of ongoing violent incidents in the Diyarbakir town of Lice — ostensibly over popular protests of the construction of security outposts — is actually the approaching cannabis harvest and the Kurdistan Workers Party’s (PKK) share of it.

Although the solution process brought calm and order to the region as a whole, it hasn't been calm in Lice for the past year and a half. Demonstrations, which at one time protested the security forces' anti-PKK operations, now focus on the construction of new security outposts. But the true cause of events in Lice is the blow to the region's narcotics barons. It is no surprise that the demonstrations have peaked in last 20 days, because the cannabis harvest season is around the corner.

For years, narcotics barons cultivated cannabis around Lice, taking advantage of the security vacuum in rural areas. Even state-owned lands were used for cultivating cannabis. The PKK always takes the lion’s share of narcotics revenue. Security forces, which resumed anti-narcotics operations on Dec. 31, 2012, raided the PKK headquarters in Lice’s Birlik village. Ten PKK militants, including some local chiefs, were killed. When the data on a seized computer was decoded, officials learned that most of Lice's narcotics dealers were close to the PKK.

It was calculated that the PKK had extorted $2.2 million from the Lice narcotics dealers. One PKK militant who surrendered said 30% of the cannabis planted in the triangle of Lice-Hani-Genc belonged to the PKK. After the declaration of the solution process, 21 tons of narcotics worth 100 million Turkish liras ($47.3 million) were seized in the Yalaza, Ortac and Baglan villages of Lice. Since Jan. 1, 2013, when the solution process went into effect, in Lice alone 8.15 million hemp plants and 160 tons of hashish worth of 350 million liras ($166 million) were seized.

Now there are intensified efforts to disrupt the anti-narcotic operations in Lice. On June 28, narcotics barons ferried many people from Diyarbakir to protest in front of the Kayacik outpost of Lice. When the demonstrators attacked the outpost with homemade bombs and Molotov cocktails, soldiers opened fire and killed 18-year-old Medeni Yildirim. It turned out that Yildirim was the nephew of notorious narcotics trafficker Adnan Yildirim, who was killed in 1994. This incident at the Kayacik outpost ignited the incidents that are still taking place in Lice.

The group blocking highways and clashing with security forces has continued its actions despite warnings. The security forces, not wanting to hurt civilians, have not firmly intervened. But the demonstrators have been infiltrated by the PKK’s mountain forces, and three soldiers were wounded last week. The tension that followed the deaths of Abdulbaki Akdemir and Ramazan Barat still prevails in Lice.

The reason behind this peak in tension is the approaching cannabis cultivation season. In Lice, cannabis cultivation begins every year in June, hence the efforts to prevent the entry of soldiers to the region.

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Found in: turkey, pkk, kurds
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