Universus Center of Social Researches & Ivme Hareketi
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On February 6, Turkey and Syria suffered from a devastating earthquake. The death toll is more than 30 thousand and is rising. Many people were trapped and in need of urgent assistance. Immediately after the earthquake, thousands of people flooded Twitter with cries for help, searching for their loved ones and begging for help from authorities. Many were trapped under the ruins of their homes. As if a magnitude 7.8 earthquake was not enough, an aftershock that measured 7.5 in magnitude hit about nine hours after the initial quake. Lest we forget, the weather is below zero Celsius in many affected areas with heavy snowfall.
Saying that the Turkish state was slow to react would be an understatement. Given the capabilities of the institutional design of the Turkish state ended up with a disaster covering up to 10 cities. Some cities and neighborhoods did not receive any support for almost two days. The first 48 hours are crucial in a natural disaster. Flocks of people were on their own. Survivors dug their way to others with their own means and sheer will. Without running water, electricity and phone reception, some cities were simply disconnected from the rest of the country. Unfortunately, the lack of organization and experience was apparent when the state emergency services finally arrived. Confusions arose from over-tangled bureaucracy, even caus- ing bottlenecks in the flow of aid from other parts of the country.
Much of the mainstream media failed to broadcast the seriousness of the emergency and the devastation. Victims were silenced on live TV by reporters from media outlets close to the government. Twitter users were detained for criticizing the government’s lack of preparedness. The next step was to restrict access to social media in the name of combatting disinformation. The Turkish government restricted Twitter for hours, a platform thousands of people used to search for help or to organize to provide that help. Mean- while, the government hindered help effort from NGOs that wasn’t directly controlled by President Erdo- gan’s party nor from oppositional parties.
This was not the first natural disaster Turkey had to endure. In 1999, another major earthquake on August 17 killed 17,480 people. Turkey started collecting a temporary ‘earthquake tax’ in 1999, later made perma- nent by then-Prime Minister Erdogan in 2003. The aim was to finance a country-wide urban transforma- tion campaign and prepare the country for a potential natural disaster. However, the AKP governments spent the billions of dollars collected under the guise of ‘earthquake tax’ on large construction contracts, many of which were given to President Erdogan’s cronies. In other words, the resources that were supposed to be allocated for building earthquake-proof buildings and safe cities were spent on erecting cheap concrete jungles. Academics perpetually warned the government that a major earthquake was likely yet not taken seriously. Now, Turkey will rebuild from scratch and needs international solidarity.
As a part of the earthquake relief effort in Turkey, we, democratic socialist İVME and left-wing research think-thank Universus, believe it is our duty to support these communities during their time of need. As a step forward, we call on all of our fellow activists, allies and supporters to join the ongoing efforts of TİP (Workers’ Party of Turkey) in purchasing and organizing temporary living containers in Hatay. These containers provide primary living conditions, medical needs, livelihood requirements, and protection for people who have lost their homes and loved ones. These living quarters will provide shelter against the destruction by the earthquake and heavy winter conditions and can make a difference between the night and day.
We understand that true solidarity means standing with those who are most vulnerable and marginalized in times of crisis. Let us come together to support one another and take a step towards building a more just and equitable society!
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