Turkey has been devastated by a recent wave of earthquakes in January and October. A total of 41 people were killed and more than 1,600 were injured in the 6.7-magnitude earthquake that rocked the eastern province of Elazığ. At least 115 people are believed to have died after a 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck the western province of İzmir on October 30, and the death toll is rising every day.
Like no other event, the quake has laid bare the corrupt realities of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's Turkey. It exposed ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) politicians who had turned a blind eye to building code violations in exchange for money or votes, and contractors from the AKP's close circle who had turned the country’s urban construction boom into an unbridled greed-a-thon.
It also has shattered the popular image of a state whose politicians, bureaucrats, army and police commanders projected themselves as all-powerful and all-caring — and demanded total allegiance in return.
In 2020, 203 people have lost their lives in 15 deadly earthquakes across the world so far and 157 of them died in Turkey, revealing the devastation of the lives of the poor at the hands of a corrupted autocratic leader.
The money gathered in the special earthquake tax that was introduced after the 1999 quake in western Turkey, that killed nearly 17,000, has been spent in unrelated areas, despite being earmarked for possible disasters. The opposition believes the amount raised in these taxes exceeds $36 billion.
It should also be noted that Erdoğan has personally presided over the construction boom during which pro-government contractors were more or less allowed free reign to build all over the country.
Turkey is located on active seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. Yet Erdoğan governments made no effort whatsoever in the 18-year-rule to prepare and take precautions to prevent large-scale death and disaster in the event of a major earthquake. The scale of the disaster is therefore man-made, in the sense that it could have been dramatically lessened if adequate preventive measures were put in place.
Yet, solidarity among people continues to grow. Miners from the neighbouring province of Manisa's Soma district, who have been on strike since Oct. 12, formed and sent rescue teams to Izmir. Meanwhile, unions, NGOs, socialist parties and organisations established the Izmir Solidarity Network to provide the people with food, blankets and medicine. However, they met with police brutality and detentions.
There is already a massive discontent emerging against the government due to its mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the latest earthquake once again underlined the level of corruption at Erdoğan's world-famous 1000-room palace. The government allocated $4.4 million for relief works in Izmir when the palace's daily spendings reach $1.3 million.
Peace to the shacks! War on the palaces!
The people united can never be defeated!
The Socialist Refoundation Party (SYKP) is a Turkish political party and member of the Progressive International.
Photo: Duvar English