This week, our thoughts went again to everyone affected by the devastating 6 Feb. earthquakes, which we have been dedicated to covering over the last year. We commemorate all that was lost and will continue to follow the long road of recovery.
In this week’s recap:
Turkey commemorates Feb. 6 earthquakes
New candidates, old frictions
Three dead in İstanbul courthouse attack
Putin visit delayed, Hamas talks ongoing
CB governor resigns amid drama
Bikini divides community
And in our original reports:
Michael Butterworth on the new draft law threatening Turkey’s wine industry
Gonca Tokyol and Ingrid Woudwijk share the life and struggle of quake survivor Emine Akgül
Nimet Kıraç on the anger and sorrow at the Hatay vigil
Tuesday was the first anniversary of the Feb. 6 earthquakes.
Survivors still struggle with the consequences in every aspect of their lives. Mourning continues and economic conditions worsen, as the speed of reconstruction efforts fall behind promised timelines.
Politically, not much changed either. While more than 200 contractors and developers have been detained, local government officials have not faced trial. Similarly, there have been no political resignations due to lackluster disaster preparations that exacerbated the losses.
A strong political culture of impunity is something that predates Pres. Erdoğan, said Gönül Tol, director of MEI's Turkey Program. She noted Murat Kurum was the urbanization minister during the disaster and had previously granted building amnesties for irregular constructions. Instead of being “punished”, he was “rewarded” with a nomination as the AKP mayoral candidate for İstanbul, she said.
The opposition is not much different.
“The main opposition party, that claims to be the voice of change, especially with their new leadership under Özgür Özel, went ahead and fielded the same candidate as mayor,” Tol said, referring to the current Hatay Mayor Lütfü Savaş.
Following protests aimed at Savaş during a morning vigil on Feb. 6, CHP officials said they would re-evaluate his candidacy. Yet Savaş doubled down on his candidacy Wednesday, hinting at “dirty games” and implying some people in the protest could have attacked him.
“He is not going to step down, and it’s Özgür Özel’s responsibility to ask him to step down,” Tol told Turkey recap.
She pointed to Gökhan Zan as a possible alternative. Zan is a former İYİ MP candidate with popular support, especially after voicing his anger during the vigil in Antakya.
Before the anniversary, Erdoğan visited Hatay Sunday to deliver keys for some 7,000 new apartments and to open a new hospital.
He criticized the local government, saying: “If the central government and the local government don’t work hand in hand, if they are not in solidarity, nothing good will come to the city. When has Hatay received anything? Right now, Hatay has been left strange and sad."
With this, he said out loud what many residents have believed for a long time: that aid is distributed according to political affiliation. In other words: no votes, no aid.
“Your city has been leveled to the ground and here you have the strongest man in the country, President Erdoğan, threatening them that they would not receive services if they don't elect the AKP mayor,” Tol said. “People are afraid and understandably so.”
Looking ahead, Tol expects neither the current impunity nor partisanship politics to change. Instead, she said places like Hatay might become a source of revenue for the construction industry and Erdoğan’s cronies.
“Things that led to this tragedy, years of unsafe construction building, it's continuing and it's speeding up. They haven't learned anything and they won't,” Tol said. “Unless those responsible pay a political price, nothing is going to change.”
– Ingrid Woudwijk