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Politics ‘salt block licks’ hit insatiable Erdogan

I wake up at 1:06 AM 13 February local time,12 February 4:06 PM (GMT). After a short prayer for personal, family, national and world peace, I make for my desk. The Turkey earthquake story aftermath is still on my nerve. Before retiring to bed, German and Austrian rescuers had suspended operations because of “security reasons”.  I am greeted by The Times of Israel headline saying: “Some Israeli rescuers depart Turkey over safety fears, as locals fume at government.”

The story reads that a delegation from the United Hatzalah emergency response organization to Turkey is cutting short its mission over “security concerns” and quotes operations vice-president Dovi Maisel as saying all was because of unspecified “concrete and immediate threat.” The paper also quotes a group spokesperson as saying there was not necessarily one specific threat driving the decision but that there were two more general concerns: “proximity to the Syrian border … and growing unrest among Turkish citizens over their government’s poor response to the earthquake.” 

Reading the story further, I learn that due to the lack of available planes [billionaire philanthropist] Dr. Miriam Adelson donated her private jet to fly the team back to Israel. Between the lines I remember that Dr. Adelson’s type of people in Turkey, like Osman Kavala, are in Erdogan’s jails, irrespective of national and international pleas for respecting their human rights.

But why are the Turkish people up in arms against their government? How can they hold it responsible for a natural disaster – the magnitude notwithstanding?  Al-Monitor had an answer. “Turkey’s once mighty developers under fire after quake,” says a headline. The story reveals a Turkish developer being arrested while trying to flee the country and two colleagues connected to a luxurious apartment that crumbled.

While the country is calling for their heads, says Al-Monitor, Turkish officials are turning them into the focus of the public outrage at the shoddy business dealings that appear to have contributed to the disaster’s “unfathomable scale”. Architects are of the opinion that the crumbled apartment is a symbol of Turkey’s inability to maintain building standards that could have dramatically reduced the catastrophic toll that had surpassed 30,000 in Turkey alone when I was patching up this analysis. The Justice Ministry is reported to have issued warrants for 114 people and launched 134 investigations.

Al-Monitor singled out one hotel accommodating 24 Cypriot students and 15 accompanying adults who were in Turkey for a volleyball tournament. All the children died and only four adults survived. According to available information, the hotel had been briefly closed for construction “irregularities” but (somehow) it reopened.  One survivor was quoted as saying the quake tore off the building’s walls “like sheets of paper. I want these people to face justice. They are murderers.”

And what has generally been President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s response to people’s anger? He has argued that no one could have been prepared to deal with Turkey’s “worst disaster in history.” But he agrees that “authorities should have reacted faster.”

History has it that after the previous 1999 earthquake, 2,100 investigations were opened against developers of collapsed buildings. Nothing much positive happened that is worth a mention other than that most of those found “guilty” benefitted from a statute of limitation that came into force in 2007.

According to engineers and architects interviewed by AFP, most of Turkey’s builders manage to work around existing codes drawn on those operating of California, the US. One architect said: “On paper the standards are respected with contracts being awarded to private companies (only that) developers often strike private deals with companies in charge of conducting inspections…” Profit is the main motive rather than standards.

Now, as fate would have it, Istanbul has been put on alert.  Geology Professor at Yildiz Technical University has warned that “the question is when a powerful quake will hit Istanbul, not if it will happen. With the dates we have on the past earthquakes, and through certain modellings we can say that an Istanbul earthquake is near and we would not even be surprised if the city is hit by today…”

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu said in a recent interview that there were some 90,000 buildings that were highly vulnerable in the mega city with a population of 20 million people. Another 170,000 were in the medium-risk status in case of a strong earthquake one according to research conducted by the Istanbul Municipality.

 The people’s anger should not be underestimated. One Twitter accountholder vented his ire by charging: “The killer publicly admits his crimes: In (the) 2019 election … President Erdogan bragged about how his government granted “Imar affi” – occupancy permits (in respect of) buildings constructed without license – to 350,000 people in quake- hit Hatay and Kahramanmaras provinces.”

Testifying another person’s opinion that Erdogan was a Machiavellian politician, another Twitter account holder argued: “The politicians all over the world see their close interests first… It’s upon the people themselves to realize it and behave accordingly so they could apply pressure on the politicians in order to help people live a decent life.” A fourth “Twit” simply said: “Send Erdogan to life in jail.”

That roughly sums up people’s feelings about their head of state, prompting me to go back to my animal science lecture rooms about typical qualities of goats. Our lecturers told us that these angulates need a wide range of trace elements for their health.  They need Copper to address issues of parasites, hair loss and coat issues. Selenium for regeneration tissue and repair of cell damage. Magnesium for good milk supply. Zinc for healthy sexual maturity and all that go with it for the he and she goats. Calcium and Phosphorus to prevent fever, strengthen bones and ensure healthy kids. Salt for a healthy heart, muscles, growth and other aspects of health. Iron for good health and energy maintenance.

In as much as these trace elements are essential, they can have lethal effect on goats if taken in too much quantities. An over intake of salt in particular, can lead to blood poisoning, demanding the services of a veterinary officer, short of which deaths may occur. Salt licks, as they are commonly referred to, can kill. The same can apply to heads of state and government or a regime growing so insatiable as to take everything for grabs. This is where Erdogan and ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party can be seen as having come to the level of politics poisoning, making the Turkish people to have second thoughts on their role in the absence of human rights respects, peace, economic advancement, name it.

As Turkey draws near to the parliamentary and presidential elections, if they are to be held at all in view of the Turkey-Syria earthquake aftermath and a threatening one for Istanbul, what could be worse for an incumbent head of state being wished “a life in jail”? Under AKP and ally, Turkey has come to the level of hell-on-earth life. Politics ‘salt block licks’ have indeed damaged (beyond repair) or killed Erdogan and his rule.

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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