Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Violation of ODTÜ Campus on 18th October 2013, Statement from the Rector's Office

This statement is considered necessary in response to the popular concern of staff, press and the general public about the violation of our campus by the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality on the night of the 18th October 2013.

On the 2nd October 2013, ODTÜ was notified by fax that the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning had approved the Plan of Conservation and Development. However, the Plan which was not attached to the fax was only received on Friday, 11th October 2013. The Plan proposed by ODTÜ had apparently been changed in several ways by the authorities, contrary to the statements released earlier to the press. Under the regulations, ODTÜ had until the 4th November 2013 to file any objections.

On the same day the university received the Plan (11th October), we contacted the Ministry, Municipality and state authorities to notify them of our intention to object to the Plan, and asked them not to initiate action during the legal appeals period. Ankara Metropolitan Municipality (ABB) Acting Director of Technical Services and the Director of Development and Urban Planning both verbally assured us that they would not start action without contacting the university. The same day, we also notified the ABB in writing that we would not want any action before the end of the legal appeals process.

Despite these assurances, an unexpected night operation was initiated by the ABB on Friday, 18th October 2013 without waiting for the end of the appeals process. At 21:15, ABB heavy construction machinery, construction teams and personnel entered the campus without consent and began tearing down our hedges in the 100. Yıl Öğretmenler Bulvarı area. The university security personnel warned them not to violate the campus and attempted to stop them. However, they failed in their efforts against the trucks, heavy machinery and municipality personnel.

The local 10 Nisan Police Station was notified several times by phone regarding the violation of the campus and the unlawful removal of trees that are ODTÜ property. A written appeal was also made. However, the Police did not take action or accept the written appeal. The unlawful procedure was simultaneously communicated to the Municipality Construction Team Chief, who likewise refused to accept a written notification.

Written appeals were also made to the Ankara governor's office, the Provincial Police Directorate and the ABB for the action to be stopped. The governor was personally contacted by phone to notify him of the violation and ask him to bring it to an end. However, the Municipality teams remained on campus until 06.30 a.m.

On the morning of the 19th October, we saw that all of the 3,000 trees on the route inside our campus had been destroyed. Of these, 600 pines were to be transplanted. We were not informed about how these were removed, but it is clearly not possible to transplant 600 trees overnight.

ODTÜ has contributed with good will towards a legal solution of the road construction issue. In response, our campus was raided at night without waiting for the end of the legal process regarding the Plan of Conservation and Development; construction was started illegitimately; and the trees which are university property were destroyed.

We will take all legal action necessary against this violation. Our university strongly condemns this attitude that in no way complies with well-intentioned and responsible public administration.