Turkey is a strange coun­try always await­ing the next tremor to fig­ure out if the pre­vi­ous one was a les­son! As to the answer to the ques­tion “what pre­ven­tive mea­sures were tak­en?” this is a State secret!

Türkçe  | Français | English

It is a coun­try where not only the earth trem­bles but also where social fault lines are in con­stant move­ment, with a ris­ing axis of pover­ty, injus­tice, ero­sion, and polar­iza­tion; and where fas­cism is becom­ing institutionalized.

Indeed, a num­ber of nat­ur­al, social and polit­i­cal tremors pro­vide the unfor­tu­nate naked expres­sion of this real­i­ty since the 1999 earth­quake (in Izmit), through the one in Van in 2011 and the recent one in Elazığ. Peo­ple have been sub­ject­ed to the destruc­tive effects of these tremors and con­tin­ue to suf­fer their con­se­quences. Thou­sands of peo­ple have lost their life, thou­sands have been wound­ed, the coun­try’s econ­o­my is severe­ly affect­ed. The tremors expe­ri­enced have not only affect­ed social psy­chol­o­gy but they have also left deep imprints of destruction.

The crit­i­cal ques­tion this week then becomes whether a les­son has been learned from the tremors or not. Are earth­quakes writ­ten into fate? Giv­en that Turkey occu­pies a seis­mic zone, that the largest part of its lands and pop­u­la­tion are at risk, that since the 1900s to this day, close to thir­ty small­er or big­ger earth­quakes were expe­ri­enced on Ana­to­lian lands, where count­less social tremors have occurred, car­ry­ing with them hun­dreds of thou­sands of lives… Giv­en that 66% of the lands are on fault lines car­ry­ing a first or sec­ond lev­el of risk, that 11 cities with pop­u­la­tions of over one mil­lion, that 70% of the pop­u­la­tion and 75% of big indus­tri­al instal­la­tions are at risk of seis­mic tremors… Is it pos­si­ble to say “earth­quake are des­tiny”?

Of course, one can­not avoid a tremor which is a nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­non. But the ques­tion is about the impos­si­bil­i­ty of cre­at­ing a mech­a­nism of polit­i­cal pow­er that sees to the inter­ests of the peo­ple as the pri­or­i­ty, one that can keep nat­ur­al phe­nom­e­na from trans­form­ing into cat­a­stro­phes, capa­ble of pro­duc­ing struc­tures adapt­ed to the need and that can avoid social tremors by secur­ing con­di­tions and con­se­quences around earth­quakes. One is led to under­stand that this polit­i­cal pow­er ignores the fact that Turkey is a land of tremors, that it denies the evi­dence that a func­tion­al and trans­par­ent con­trol mech­a­nism would pro­vide the major mea­sure allow­ing to antic­i­pate earth­quakes. A polit­i­cal pow­er that leaves humans to face their fate alone, that choos­es urban reha­bil­i­ta­tion projects as the only solu­tion to the threat of tremors, legit­i­mates prof­itable projects, ignores the pro­mo­tion of a pol­i­cy cen­tered on the peo­ple. Social life, the sat­is­fac­tion of human needs, rights and basic free­doms were nev­er includ­ed in its agenda!

For exam­ple, fol­low­ing the tremor in Van (2011) we wit­nessed in Turkey the despair of the inhab­i­tants who, while they were deal­ing with the loss of their loved ones had to strug­gle for sur­vival in extreme con­di­tions, reduced to a hunger strike with then no oth­er solu­tion than to leave the town. We also saw that, in the 1999 earth­quake in Mar­mara just as in Van, the dis­as­ters did not unite soci­ety under a com­mon denom­i­na­tor. We wit­nessed a grow­ing social polar­iza­tion, to the point of see­ing some who were sat­is­fied to let oth­ers suf­fer. Thus, nei­ther were the destruc­tive con­se­quences of tremors avert­ed, nor were ade­quate steps tak­en dur­ing inter­ven­tions fol­low­ing the cat­a­stro­phy and the man­age­ment of the cri­sis. As if this were not enough, the vic­tims of the tremors in Van were used, through fal­si­fied projects, as mate­r­i­al for pop­ulism in the pub­lic opinion.

Earth­quakes are impos­si­ble to pre­vent, but their destruc­tive and dead­ly after­maths can be antic­i­pat­ed. By not sac­ri­fic­ing the coun­try’s resources, not ide­al­iz­ing war and invest­ing bil­lions in death. This regime, like the ones pre­ced­ing it, could suc­ceed in this under such con­di­tions. For this rea­son, the fact of con­sid­er­ing earth­quakes sole­ly as nat­ur­al cat­a­stro­phes, explain­ing them in that way to the cit­i­zens, along with the absence of plan­ning and pre­ven­tion, and the denial of sci­en­tif­ic data, takes the form of the great­est flip­pan­cy imag­in­able: igno­rance, clos­ing one’s eyes, pre­me­di­at­ed assassination!

It is essen­tial that sen­si­ble human beings in Turkey fight for need­ed peace in our region, adopt a clear posi­tion in deal­ing with impe­ri­al­ism and its pol­i­tics in order to over­come those who sow the seeds of vio­lence, hatred and hos­til­i­ty in these lands where we could live in peace; in order to ini­ti­ate con­di­tions for fra­ter­nal liv­ing togeth­er in peace, against the cul­ture of lynch­ing fed by racism and nation­al­ism, to bar the way to polit­i­cal forces that trans­form nat­ur­al cat­a­clysms into cat­a­stro­phes. Indeed, these are the very real­i­ties that con­sti­tute a mes­sage to polit­i­cal pow­ers, a warn­ing to pub­lic opin­ion and shar­ing the load of moral and con­sci­en­tious respon­si­bil­i­ty for all!

Sara Aktaş

Arti­cle pub­lished in Turk­ish on Yeni Özgür Poli­ti­ka on Jan­u­ary 31 2020

Sara Aktaş
Sara Aktaş, poet, writer and Kurdish feminist activist, is a member of the Free Women’s Congress. She has published two books of poems, “Aksi Yalandır”, (The Opposite would be a lie) 2013 and “Savaş Yıkıntıları”, (War Ruins) 2005.
Jailed on a number of occasions and at risk of long years of incarceration, she took the decision to seek refuge in France. She continues writing for different media.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
Vous pouvez utiliser, partager les articles et les traductions de Kedistan en précisant la source et en ajoutant un lien afin de respecter le travail des auteur(e)s et traductrices/teurs. Merci.
Kedistan’ın tüm yayınlarını, yazar ve çevirmenlerin emeğine saygı göstererek, kaynak ve link vererek paylaşabilirisiniz. Teşekkürler.
Ji kerema xwere dema hun nivîsên Kedistanê parve dikin, ji bo rêzgirtina maf û keda nivîskar û wergêr, lînk û navê malperê wek çavkanî diyar bikin. Spas.
You may use and share Kedistan’s articles and translations, specifying the source and adding a link in order to respect the writer(s) and translator(s) work. Thank you.
Por respeto hacia la labor de las autoras y traductoras, puedes utilizar y compartir los artículos y las traducciones de Kedistan citando la fuente y añadiendo el enlace. Gracias.
Auteur(e) invité(e)
Auteur(e)s Invité(e)s
AmiEs con­tributri­ces, con­tribu­teurs tra­ver­sant les pages de Kedis­tan, occa­sion­nelle­ment ou régulièrement…