The Erdogan regime has been paralyzed in the wake of the 7.8 magnitude Kahramanmaras Earthquake, further devastating the victims and survivors in the regions of the crushing quake. The official toll states approximately 12,500 dead (and counting) in Turkey alone. For sure, the feeble and non-inspected buildings have not been the sole reason behind the devastation unleashed by the earthquake. The cities have not only been razed because of the incredible magnitude of the tremors but also by the negligence of the central and provincial administrations. The usually-slow bureaucracy grew slower and even ground to a halt in an annoying manner while at least 200.000 people waited struggling or dead under debris, according to Prof. Dr. Ovgun Ahmet Ercan who also says the aftermath poses greater risks than even the earthquake itself!
The first two days, the Erdogan regime did little and watched the catastrophe from the screens while affected people kept crying out for emergency rescue and humanitarian relief. The sheer lethargy of the state officials set the social media users especially in Twitter to discussions whether Erdogan himself was lost in the first hours of the earthquake, and if not, why he did not take the podium for a State of Union address or a media conference to sharing his government’s plans and actions to address the devastation the two massive earthquakes left in their wake. He managed to appear before cameras a day after the disaster, on February 7, repeating the official statistics and usual condolence remarks, but not saying much about what actions his government would take. Erdogan betrayed his emotions the other way round as he said, “It is not time to argue with those who spread misinformation now. Yet, their names are recorded and we will open that book when the time comes” instead of sympathizing with his citizens at a time of devastating disaster and blow to national spirit and threatened all who rendered citizen journalism in the quake-hit areas to expedite the much-needed rescue and relief. Hence, Erdogan showed how inadequate his government and officials were to access the region and offer the first-hand assistance to the survivors and recover the victims. Bringing to minds how he ‘managed’ to heap people and equipment on the streets on the eve of the so-called coup attempt in July 2016, Erdogan rather bitterly disappointed the people whom he once called out on the streets to establish his incumbent iron rule. Always a populist to the hilt, he resorted to upholding his PR than the lives of the survivors and the perished. He even did not let the national suffering, pain and deaths jeopardize his so-called charisma and macho image!
The cabinet ministers and state officials who visited the quake-hit regions have also largely been indifferent for the needs of the survivors and those under debris. They seem to visit the regions for photo-ops and propagating for the impending elections. Visible in a social media video, Nurettin Canikli, deputy chairman of Erdogan’s AKP, showed no empathy and attention to a survivor and kept himself busy with his phone while the survivor wept and appealed to him for emergency relief and rescue. Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu, Minister of Youth and Sports, was showed in a social media video how his official convoy of several vehicles blocked the main artery to the disaster zone as relief teams and equipment had to wait and lose precious time to save lives and soothe pains. No matter how much he was criticized for his ‘official’ behavior, all these also bounced back as if the Minister was made of impenetrable concrete. As another example – and this time (strangely) not beaming with smiles – was Nureddin Nebati, Minister of Treasury and Finance, who visited a quake-hit area and claimed “People did not die because of the earthquake but of injuries they had while they attempted to escape in response to the tremors.’ Possibly due to stupidity fatigue in the face of Nebati’s and his cabinet colleagues’ occasional blunders and unfeeling remarks, people mostly did not criticize him for this intellectually low-performing comment. It is another question why the regime chose to send its Finance Minister to a devastated place where he could officially offer only empty words for relief.
Several other incidents make the list; yet, everyone expected Erdogan show up immediately after the disaster and visit the affected regions. The much-awaited visit did not transpire until the third day after the earthquake. Erdogan is a shrewd politician with an acutely calculating mind, envied by the facile. He waited for the best time for himself, not for the people who struggled under debris, breathed their last, or saved after hours and days as exhausted and injured. He did nothing until he was sure the precautions were set to protect his macho statesman image. Only then, he executed his visit to a quake-hit city under maximum security and precautions, calculating even whom he would interact with, as he feared harsh retort from the quake survivors. Lending it a ‘compassionate’ viewpoint, this can be understood from several aspects as he is a politician at the end of the day. Yet, there is something insane. Before that visit, the Erdogan regime blocked Twitter in Turkey. Yes, Twitter (and later TikTok) were blocked, as confirmed by both by the Turkish Directorate of Telecommunications and Elon Musk himself.
The heartless decision of the Erdogan regime amidst the searing disaster and active rescue and relief efforts yielded a wave of anger. The move has been considered not different being an accomplice for the murder of the people trapped under debris who kept communicating with the relief teams and their relatives through Twitter and SMS. People from all walks of life including the opposition leaders, journalists, and celebrities criticized the heartless measure and demanded the regime to revert to humanity and stop this nonsense. The destructive earthquakes razed the cities and the lives of the people, but the Erdogan regime has intentionally paralyzed the national will, risking not only people’s lives but the future of the country as well.
While people are left to their fates under the debris in such a state where the government remain slow and incapable of expediting humanitarian assistance in collaboration with the non-governmental organizations and philanthropists to the quake-hit regions, the Erdogan regime also prohibit certain private NGOs to operate in relief activities. Despite their murderous lethargy at the outset of the disaster, the state officials demand every assistance to be handed to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) for distribution and delivery, demanding other organizations to loosely cooperate. The AFAD teams paraded on the TV screens and photo shoots are considered as the PR campaign for the ‘efficient disaster response’ of the Erdogan regime. With this last-minute decision, all non-governmental organizations are demanded to submit the relief materials to the already-overwhelmed AFAD teams, while the regime – from its leader to the lowest foot-soldier – ‘steal the show’ along the home stretch to the elections scheduled in May 2023. While it is unsure whether the elections will be postponed or not, the Erdogan regime uses every opportunity to claim the limelight. For instance, as posted in Twitter, an 18-wheeler loaded with emergency relief materials is shown in one picture ready to be dispatched to a quake-hit town or city, its front grill draped in the banner of a people’s relief initiative organized by the Mayor’s Office – who happens to be from an opposition party – and with a group of people standing in front of the vehicle. The other picture shows the same 18-wheeler with the same people but with its front grill draped in the ruling party AKP’s provincial office banner, intending to claim the humanitarian assistance is sent by the Erdogan regime. As people wait under the ground for the rescue teams arrive, the regime plays dirty political games above the ground in plain sight of the entire nation, disgusting everyone having conscience and humanity.
The Erdogan regime hits the scene not to address the emergency needs of the earthquake affectees but gain political mileage by stealing the show and secure their win for the coming election. The next election will be a contest between the honor of people and the Erdogan regime for the salvation of the people of Turkey. No one is still sure whether the nation will show the door to the materially and morally corrupt Erdogan regime which also leeches people’s religious sentiments. As the incumbent regime is sworn to protect its stifling reign at all costs, we will wait and see how the electorate in Turkey will want their present and future be shaped.