İztuzu beach in the southwestern Turkish province of Muğla, famous as a breeding ground for loggerhead turtles or caretta carettas, is nowadays home to a group of environmental activists protesting its privatization.
Activists have camped at the beach since last week in an attempt to stop a British-Turkish consortium taking over the site after the company won the legal battle for the operation of the beach in Muğla's Ortaca district. The number of activists holding vigil on the beach reached 2,000 yesterday, demanding a halt to the privatization of the beach. The Environment Ministry dismissed activists' claims that construction would be allowed on the part of the beach which is under a status of preservation as the breeding ground of turtles, and said in a statement that the beach will not be closed to the public after the takeover by the company as activists claimed. The ministry said in the statement that the company will not be allowed to harm the site, which is under protection as a caretta caretta breeding ground, and the company would only set up facilities in an area outside the beach used by the public and turtles.
Muğla Governorate had launched a tender after the beach's ownership was transferred to the local authority from Ortaca municipality, and the company won the tender despite the fact that it was entangled in a legal process due to a lawsuit launched to stop the privatization by the municipality. On Dec. 29, a court lifted the stay of execution order on the privatization, and soon after the ruling was announced, company officials arrived at the site, much to the chagrin of the environmentally-conscious locals, who claimed that company workers entered the site with construction equipment and damaged the well-preserved beach. As the rift between the company and angry activists grew, gendarmerie troops were deployed at the site to prevent further damage to the beach.