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On the third day fol­low­ing the earth­quake in Turkey, Syr­ia and Kur­dis­tan, only a few voic­es can still be heard from under the rub­ble. Calls for help have slow­ly fall­en silent… Thou­sands of peo­ple stuck under the debris have per­ished from the cold, from lack of water, while await­ing the res­cuers. Escaped fam­i­lies also wait, des­per­ate­ly, between tears and anger, in front of the enor­mous piles of rubble.

The insuf­fi­cien­cy and dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the State in front of this  pre­dictable cat­a­stro­phe has cost to this day over 18 000 loss­es of life …and it isn’t over yet. One head­line that reads “One can­not pre­dict the date of an earth­quake but one can plan to avoid a cat­a­stro­phe” has nev­er been more current.

turquie seisme tremblement de terre moto dépouille

The res­i­dents of “for­got­ten” towns car­ry the bod­ies of their kin them­selves, with their own means. Many inhab­i­tants open up their spared home to shel­ter sur­vivors, but that isn’t enough for the thou­sands attempt­ing to sur­vive, to feed them­selves, in the freez­ing cold. Even toi­let are a huge problem.

Under the praise-wor­thy excuse of coor­di­nat­ing the help under the best con­di­tions pos­si­ble, the State has erect­ed a mono­pole,  AFAD (the Turk­ish pub­lic orga­ni­za­tion respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing cat­a­stro­phes). In fact, its activ­i­ties are close­ly direct­ed from above. One can­not say exact­ly if the map of rapid or slow arrivals of help match up to an elec­toral map, or to that of already defi­cient infra­struc­tures, which is anoth­er way of say­ing the same thing. We are here in the geo­graph­i­cal sec­tion of Turkey  that is heav­i­ly pop­u­lat­ed by a major­i­ty of Kurds, Ale­vis, not very favor­able to the regime.

A cas­cade of required autho­riza­tions for for­eign aid, — UN autho­riza­tions, AFAD autho­riza­tion, gov­ern­men­tal ones — often delayed by two days the arrival of teams and spe­cial­ized mate­r­i­al, as well as inter­na­tion­al med­ical assis­tance. The regime can both claim that this is “the worst cat­a­stro­phe in the world” while par­ti­tion­ing the help.

As we know, access is even more prob­lem­at­ic in Syr­ia. But that did not stop Turkey from delay­ing by two days the open­ing of two addi­tion­al bor­der cross­ings, need­ed for aid. And the Turk­ish regime  did not delay “planned” aer­i­al bomb­ings on Tal Rifaat, in North­ern Syr­ia, a region also hit by the earth­quake (infor­ma­tion trans­mit­ted by Kur­dish agencies).

The first aid thus came from local sol­i­dar­i­ties and civil­ian aid orga­ni­za­tions which, luck­i­ly, exist­ed in the urban fab­ric. On the videos, one sees very few army or police uni­forms among the res­cuers, despite the fact that they are usu­al­ly every­where, their appear­ance  now coin­cid­ing with the arrival of “per­son­al­i­ties” who are loud­ly hoot­ed con­cern­ing the delays in aid and its insuf­fi­cien­cy. These days, the police is quick­er to seize unau­tho­rized trucks of aid not with­in the “AFAD sys­tem” and to stop voic­es express­ing criticisms.

Since images, videos and infor­ma­tion con­tra­dict­ing gov­ern­men­tal dec­la­ra­tions dis­turbed the regime, access to Twit­ter and Tik­Tok were restrict­ed. Inhab­i­tants report­ed that block­ing was done to phone and WiFi net­works, thus pre­vent­ing sur­vivors them­selves of sig­nalling their pres­ence and being local­ized, as well as the pos­si­bil­i­ty of self-man­aged pop­u­lar aid. Thus, all appeals for fam­i­ly search­es are affect­ed, resem­bling so many bot­tles thrown into the sea.

As a mat­ter of fact, Erdoğan announced in his speech recent­ly — while declar­ing a state of excep­tion, not a mobi­liza­tion as such — that the police and pros­e­cu­tors were keep­ing a close watch on per­sons shar­ing “unde­sired” pub­li­ca­tions, and declared that “when the time comes, we will open up the reg­is­ter we are keep­ing on the provo­ca­teurs”. Some local jour­nal­ists have already been tak­en into custody…

The lack of com­pli­ance with seis­mic norms has result­ed in the col­lapse of many recent build­ings that fell like cas­tles made out of play­ing cards… Spe­cial­ized archi­tects are already tes­ti­fy­ing about this.

Even if, on the 4th day of the cat­a­stro­phe, the urgency is still there of mirac­u­lous­ly sav­ing lives, one of the duties is also to locate the con­struc­tion firms that built these struc­tures that col­lapsed in this way dur­ing an earth­quake.  Prof. Dr. Murat Volkan Dül­ger, an expert jurist, denounces some of these firms and declares that charges of “endan­ger­ment of oth­er people’s lives” and “homi­cide of sev­er­al peo­ple through con­scious neg­li­gence” will be made to the penal sys­tem, not only against the firms that built the struc­tures that col­lapsed, but also against those who deliv­ered the con­struc­tion per­mits and those who val­i­dat­ed the build­ings as habitable.

See­ing the absence of pre­ven­tion and the orga­ni­za­tion­al dif­fi­cul­ties that par­a­lyze the Turk­ish State’s inter­ven­tion in emer­gen­cies, every time the earth shakes in Turkey, the same ques­tion sur­faces : “Where did the funds col­lect­ed for pre­ven­tion in earth­quakes go ?”

A use­ful reminder being that, fol­low­ing the Göl­cük earth­quake on August 17 1999 that took close to 20 000 lives and caused enor­mous dam­age, the Turk­ish State estab­lished a tax known as the “earth­quake tax” and ren­dered it per­ma­nent. Since then, a fund of 750 bil­lion Turk­ish lira was col­lect­ed through this tax. On Novem­ber 12 1999, anoth­er earth­quake in Düzce caused 845 vic­tims. Fol­low­ing these earth­quakes, var­i­ous oth­er tax­es were imposed in these regions in order to “elim­i­nate the damage.”

On Novem­ber 26 1999 were intro­duced : a sup­ple­men­tary tax­a­tion on rev­enues, one also on com­mer­cial enti­ties, on prop­er­ty, on motor vehi­cles, a spe­cial tax on com­mu­ni­ca­tions, anoth­er on finan­cial trans­ac­tions, all direct­ed toward this fund. Tax­a­tion on work­ers’ rev­enues was raised by 5% as was tax­a­tion of firms. The spe­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions tax and the one on finan­cial trans­ac­tions were ini­tial­ly expect­ed to last until Decem­ber 31 2000 but their appli­ca­tion peri­od was pro­longed twice. Con­sid­er­able amounts of mon­ey were thus col­lect­ed, with good reason.

The “earth­quake tax” pro­mul­gat­ed in 1999 was sup­posed to expire on Decem­ber 31 2003 but was ren­dered per­ma­nent by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was  Prime Min­is­ter at the time.

Accord­ing to Trea­sury records, the amount of tax­es imposed “in order to min­i­mize dam­ages caused by earth­quakes” exceed­ed 100 bil­lion Turk­ish lira. Amounts col­lect­ed from the spe­cial tax on finan­cial trans­ac­tions between 1999 and 2005 and the tax on games of chances also intro­duced after the earth­quake exceed­ed 21 bil­lion TL. The spe­cial tax on com­mu­ni­ca­tions  reached 88 bil­lion 47 mil­lion LT between 1999 and 2002. The cal­cu­la­tion done by Dr Ozan Bingöl based on the aver­age exchange rate for the dol­lar, estab­lished the cur­rent mon­e­tary val­ue of the spe­cial tax on com­mu­ni­ca­tions at 720 bil­lion 219 mil­lion TL.

Where did those funds go ? How were they utilized?

Tan­er Yıldız, then Min­is­ter of ener­gy and nat­ur­al resources declared: “Don’t for­get every­thing was com­ing up ros­es in 2001. There hadn’t been a world cri­sis yet. Despite this, Turkey dis­solved in dust. This is due to the polit­i­cal insta­bil­i­ty of those years. 238 bil­lion dol­lars were lost, of which 48,5 bil­lion dol­lars were in the bank­ing sec­tor. We were sub­ject­ed to great loss­es. The mon­ey col­lect­ed with the tax­es we call “earth­quake tax” went to cov­er the cri­sis of that year. Con­se­quent­ly, Turkey will con­tin­ue to mul­ti­ply its achieve­ments in all sec­tors, thanks to its polit­i­cal sta­bil­i­ty. The mat­ter is not spe­cif­ic to the sole sec­tor of energy.” 

As for Mehmet Şimşek, then Min­is­ter of Finances, fol­low­ing the earth­quake in Van which caused 644 vic­tims in Novem­ber 2011, he respond­ed to the ques­tion con­cern­ing the fate of the funds col­lect­ed with the “earth­quake tax”, some 46 to 48 bil­lion TL at the time: “After all, it’s about the pros­per­i­ty of 74 mil­lion peo­ple. There is that ’spe­cial tax on con­sump­tion’ which became more per­ma­nent than the “tax on earth­quakes”. These tax­es serve as financ­ing for our health. In a sin­gle year, we spend 44 bil­lion TL for the health of the cit­i­zens. And this tax allows us to invest in four-lane roads, in trains, in air­line com­pa­nies, in agri­cul­ture, in education.”

On his Twit­ter account, jour­nal­ist Mehmet Kız­maz shares the infor­ma­tion accord­ing to which he close­ly exam­ined the inves­ti­ga­tion pro­pos­als  sub­mit­ted to the Turk­ish par­lia­ment since July 2018 con­cern­ing earth­quakes. With doc­u­men­tary evi­dence, he says that a total of 75 pro­pos­als were sub­mit­ted. It is inter­est­ing to note who made these pro­pos­als : 46 came from the People’s Repub­li­can Par­ty (CHP), 17 from the Peo­ples’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (HD°), 8 from the Good Par­ty (IYI), 3 from the Nation­al­ist Action Par­ty (MHP) and 1 from Erdoğan’s AKP.

The requests cov­er the qua­si total­i­ty of aspects of pre­ven­tive mea­sures con­cern­ing earth­quakes and demand the open­ing of an inquest so as to :

- deter­mine where the tax­es on earth­quakes were spent and deter­mine mea­sures to pre­vent loss­es of lives and belong­ings dur­ing earthquakes,
— deter­mine mea­sures to be tak­en con­cern­ing analy­sis in prepa­ra­tion of even­tu­al major seis­mic shocks,
— deter­mine required mea­sures to min­i­mize mate­r­i­al and moral dam­ages occur­ring fol­low­ing an earthquake,
— exam­ine if leg­is­la­tion rel­a­tive to build­ing inspec­tions and pro­fes­sion­al respon­si­bil­i­ty of entre­pre­neurs is suf­fi­cient in terms of an even­tu­al earthquake,
— sev­er­al requests involve the towns of Hatay, Adıya­man, Gaziantep, Malatya etc cur­rent­ly deeply affect­ed, and demand the deter­mi­na­tions of zones at risk of seis­mic shocks in the provinces and adjoin­ing provinces, and the def­i­n­i­tion of appro­pri­ate measures.

Mehmet asks : “So, how many of the 74 motions were accept­ed?” Well, the answer is : only 4 !

He goes on : “Why were a total of 71 pro­pos­als for the open­ing of par­lia­men­tary inquests main­tained  under the head­ing “on the order of the day” for years, with­out ever being treated ?”

A tes­ti­mo­ny which demon­strates that in 2018 and still, Turkey ques­tioned itself con­cern­ing seis­mic risks, with­out ever con­sid­er­ing it a pri­or­i­ty, and used the ded­i­cat­ed funds to shore up its budgets.

We are thus very tempt­ed to estab­lish a par­al­lel between the regime’s con­struc­tion bulim­ia, cor­rup­tion, and the uncon­trolled util­i­sa­tion of “pre­ven­tion” funds in a con­text where the President’s entourage pros­pers on mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tions and to con­clude that, although the seis­mic shock could not be pre­vent­ed, the cat­a­stro­phe was pre­med­i­tat­ed on the altar of corruption.

We invite your con­tri­bu­tions to Hey­va Sor with anten­nas in most countries.

In France : ROJA SOR — Soleil Rouge (Red Sun).
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Pho­to: In Hatay, there is noth­ing left stand­ing, of “Röne­sans Rezi­dans”, con­tain­ing 250 apart­ments on 12 floors. This lux­u­ri­ous res­i­dence was built in 2012, by Antis Yapı, and the project was pre­sent­ed as “earth­quake-proof”, on “float­ing foundations”…

Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges

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