Turkey • Earthquake, the policy of opportunism

Turkey Turquie Elazig seisme

Obviously after the people in Elazığ were subjected to an earthquake of magnitude 6,8 on January 24, their pain at the losses of life, the wounded and the material damage was shared by everyone across the world.


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But the anger is just as strong as the sadness because, once again as in previous catastrophes, one can only note the insufficiencies of the State and of its institutions. Most of all, the statements by the authorities and those in charge of organizations supposed to be prepared for this type of catastrophe caused a great indignation.

Facing people in need who had lost their homes, their possessions, their close ones and who cry “The State didn’t reach all the way here!” How can a minister calmly state, concerning insufficiens in the aid ” you can’t expect the State to do everything “? What are people supposed to do after their roof has collapsed on their head? Do you silence denuncations, as the one Eren Keskin relayed on Twitter: “The prefecture of Elazığ did not authorize access to 2 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid sent by the City Hall of Ergani (HDP) and turned both of them back.” Of course, solidarity initiatives began with corporate groups organizations from civil society from those few City Halls still under HDP administration, where, luckily, elected members have not been revoked…But what are the State’s responsibilities, especially in a country located in a high risk zone?

Those people in authority appropriating the people’s money, mobilize as much as they can when it comes to perpetuating their power, for military operations within the country’s borders and without, or for useless, pharaonic and harmful, projects aimed solely at profit-making, thus keeping the populations from obtaining the emergency or preventive aid they need. And when the catastrophe occurs, everything goes wrong. To top it off, they declare that the “disgruntled” expressing their indignation and criticizing the State would be prosecuted for they were “practicing a policy of opportunism piggy-backing on the catastrophe!”

Opportunism…

Thus, one must not mention that a number of scientists have conducted research, published reports, suggested preventive measures in the past decades. They stated that Elazığ and the surrounding villages must prepared for major earthquakes. The Turkish Scientific and Technological Research Center (TÜBITAK) as well the the State Planning Oganization (DPT) refused to listen. Taking their findings into account would amount to political opportunism?

Can we not ask why media functioning as power flunkeys have targeted comedian Berna Laçin with despicable headlines because she said on TV that the earthquake scaled at 6,8 and not 6,5 as the State had declared…And because she reacted in these terms on social networks: “We will donate everything we have, that is not the question, but why is it that the first thought after an eartquake is collecting money? What happened to the monies from the “eartquake taxes”? Today, she is prosecuted for “provocation” Yet, as Veli Saçılık mentions on Twitter, “Following the attack on Suruç, the State prosecutors did not open a single inquest against those who published the tens of thousands of tweets saying “it’s party time in Suruç!” or those who said “well done” concerning the death of Veysel, killed at age 9…”

So one must not ask where the money went from the so-called “special communication taxes” (ÖIV). This tax was implemented on a temporary basis following the earthquake near the sea of Marmara in 1999, hence it’s popular moniker as “the eartquake tax” or again “the solidarity tax” as a reference to the French “national solidarity tax” in 1945. Following its implementation, it was supposed to end in 2003. But it became permanent following a decision in 2005. At first, it consisted of a 25% tax on the price of communications. Since 2005 and to this day, communication on mobile phones are taxed at a level of 25%, land lines at 15% and the internet at 5%. Some 65 billion Turkish lira would thus have been collected, and probaby more (63,7 billion in 2018). It would thus be a matter of political opportunism to ask “where did this money go?” when Kızılay (The Red Crescent) immediately begins solliciting donations of at least 10 Turkish lira per text message?

It would be a policy of opportunism, only “meant to oppose the regime” and act critical, to point to those responsible for authorizing building in non-constructible zones and who close their eyes on the lack of cement, reinforced concrete that does not meet the norms, the illegal adding on of extra storeys… No, criticizing those responsible and the State organizations, mired in corruption up to their necks and driven by profits and buddy systems is forbidden.

Needless to say, it is mainly forbidden to say where the true opportunism lies. “Do not exploit a catastrophe for political opportunism, let us transform it into an opportunity to solidify and render the national union permanent.”

All criticism is forbidden at the risk of legal proceedings. But “communication” has the field all to itself…

On site, Erdoğan, sheds his tears… In Elazığ, he goes to the site of a collapsed house in the Mustafa Pasa Mahallesi neighborhood where rescue operations are underway. Abdulkadir Tezcan, the President of AFAD (Directorate for the management of catastrophes and emergencies) gives the teams a wave of the hand. “Send him over.” The wounded one, barely removed from the rubble is “transported”to Erdoğan on a stretcher. And TRT, the television station that serves as “it’s master’s voice” has material for a “communication”: “While the President of the Republic Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was following the rescue operations on location, another wounded person was saved.” The media sendika.org headlined its article: “Are you shooting a film?”

turquie elazig
sendika.org

What can one say about the special correspondent from CNN Türk who insists on interviewing the eathquake survivors huddling in tents? He shows children sleeping “peacefully in the warmth” of a tent “that was brought in and installed really very quickly” and asks: “You are saved, you are warm here inside the tent, you have had some tea. Are you happy?” When the people start to say “we cannot go go inside” the houses”, he interrupts them and asks again “are you happy to be here?” He finally manages to get the answer he wants… A woman innocently answers “May God bless our State, our President, we are crammed in here inside the tents”… He closes off his reportage with “So you are happy to be in these surroundings”…(We counted the number of times the ‘reporter’ pronounced the words happiness and happy: 9 times in 1:41, the length of the video on CNN Türk). Following a surge of indignation, the journalist presented public apologies. Being one among those to whom the State has withdrawn a journalist permit, these were his words: “I watched the video several times and I’m angry at myself. Since the people had been outside, in ice cold conditions all night, the question came naturally and not as a attempt to lick the boots of anyone whatsoever.”

Just a few examples among others…

What is there to say about a CHP mayor newly elected in Istanbul who travels 1 200 kilometers “to investigate” and to show off also, whereas his immediate job whould be to signal in Istanbul the disappearance of true areas of safety and regrouping in case of earthquakes, areas replaced by shopping centers, and to also question the “taxes” that fly off to parts unknown. But he also has a few presidential ambitions… And he also calls on “national unity”, just as he does in support for the Turkish soldiers in Syria…

Immediately following the news of the earthquake, searches spiked on internet under the question; “Is Elazığ a Kurdish town?”…Would the answer depend on one’s affinities? This says a lot about the polarization in the Turkish population. And these controversies over “Kurdish territory or not” are uncalled for, except to say that these territories received no financial prevention policy from the State…No more today then they did yesterday.

Seismic fault lines on these lands do not follow borders as can be seen on this map. However, it does confirm the urgency of prevention and the ignominy of policiticans who embezzle funds, replacing them with empty words at best, and even more regularly with vast and useless and gigantic projects designed for massive profit-making.

As for risk prevention, given the extreme centralization of State powers, hypertrophied in Turkey, only contribute to a policy of laisser faire, and work in favor of every form of corruption throughout the pyramid when important sums are at stake. At a time when this same power replaces those local elected ones not to its liking with chosen administrators, this distancing from involvement with the local populations keeps on increasing.

This earthquake will not cause the regime to falter, but it does reveal the giant faults grouped under the notion of “national unity” and a political opportunism from one end of the Turkisness strata to the other, all of its participants being eager for a chance to grab future goodies. As for the people, they will have to satisfy themselves with prayers and prohibitions.

Thus does opportunism hide the forest of corruption whose roots show through in the context of this earthquake.


Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Lila Montana
REDACTION | Journaliste
Voyageuse, photographe, journaliste.
Libertaire, féministe, activiste têtue et déterminée.
Lila Montana

REDACTION | Journaliste Voyageuse, photographe, journaliste. Libertaire, féministe, activiste têtue et déterminée.

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