Celebrated Turkish forest ranger wins battle for reinstatement

A forest ranger who caught the Turkish public’s admiration after arresting those behind the theft of 2,168 trucks of sand from ancient Patara Beach in Antalya, won his battle for reinstatement after thousands of netizens condemned his arbitrary dismissal. 

 

Umut Utku, a member of the BWI-affiliated TARIM ORMAN-IS, has been dismissed twice. He was first dismissed in June 2021 after he issued a warrant of arrest against those behind the botched stealing of sand in Antalya. Utku was reinstated after TARIM ORMAN-IS filed a lawsuit before the Antalya Administrative Court. 


However, Utku was again dismissed from service on 11 July by the Kas District Governor. He was reinstated a day later after thousands of Turkish netizens responded favourably to the union’s social media campaign in support of Utku, which went viral and was picked up by various newspapers. 


TARIM ORMAN-IS President Sukru Durmus expressed his thanks to all those who supported their campaign to reinstate Utku even as he asked the public to continue exercising vigilance in protecting the environment. 


“We thank everyone for supporting the campaign to reinstate our member. However, we must remain vigilant and continue demanding truth, transparency and accountability on the sand-stealing incident at the Patara beach. On our end, we will continue to fight for the environment and against different attempts to erode job security,” Durmus said. 


Utku is a young and newly-employed 4B category forest ranger. He works in the forestry sub-directorate in Antalya’s famous holiday town of Kas.


Turkish forests are owned and administrated by the state. Forest rangers used to be employed as civil servants with life-long job security. This changed with the implementation of neoliberal policies such as temporary employment contracts to forest rangers under the so-called special category 4B.  


(Photo: Face masks were temporarily taken off for the photo-taking. COVID-19 health and safety protocols were observed)