On 6 February, Turkey was shaken by two major earthquakes of 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude and hundreds of aftershocks. This was followed by earthquakes centered in Hatay with magnitudes of 6.4 and 5.8. The earthquakes centered in Maraş and Hatay caused great loss of life and material damage in the provinces of Adana, Adıyaman, Antep, Diyarbakır, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye and Urfa. There were 13.5 million people living in the region covering these 10 provinces. According to official figures, over 90 thousand buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged. Tens of thousands of people were trapped under the collapsed buildings. In some cities, almost all of them were rendered uninhabitable. Millions of people who survived the earthquake, either alive or injured, had to stay outside in the winter cold for weeks. They did not have access to food and clean water, clothing and the most basic necessities. Three weeks after the first earthquakes, a large part of the population has not even been given winter tents. This situation led millions of people to leave their cities, except for those waiting for their relatives to be trapped under the rubble and the poorest people.
The political power is responsible for the destruction: Erdoğan resign!
The earthquake of 6 February is the biggest earthquake in the history of Turkey in terms of the size of the population, the number of cities, the area and the loss of life it caused. Erdoğan and the spokespersons of the government are trying to hide their responsibility and blame for the earthquake’s devastating consequences behind this fact. However, it is this political power that has turned the earthquake, which is a natural phenomenon, into a major disaster. Because;
Earthquake science studies predicted that there would be an earthquake of approximately 7.5 magnitude in this region in the near future and what it would lead to. What needed to be done was also clearly laid out. Despite this, the government did not take concrete and adequate measures
Although it is known that a large number of the buildings in the region will collapse in the event of a strong earthquake, no serious steps have been taken to inspect and strengthen or demolish these buildings and to transfer their inhabitants to earthquake-resistant buildings. On the contrary, for the sake of votes and money, “zoning amnesty” was repeatedly granted to completely uncontrolled, illegal and earthquake-resistant buildings.
The concentration of all powers in the hands of one person in accordance with the “one man regime” has led to bureaucrats not being able to take a step without instructions from the Palace, and state institutions being turned into a toolbox by hiring people based on loyalty rather than merit. Institutions such as AFAD and the Red Crescent, which were supposed to take part in the earthquake, were also under the influence of the same decay and corruption and were unable to fulfill their duties such as rapidly deploying to the field after the earthquake, making significant progress in search and rescue operations within the first 48 hours, and meeting the shelter, nutrition, health, cleaning and hygiene needs of the survivors within the same period. Not only 48 hours but also weeks after the first earthquake, these institutions failed to fulfill their duties. This resulted in the multiplication of casualties and injuries, and mass migration of survivors due to lack of food, shelter, health and sanitation services.
The reason why tens of thousands of people lost their lives, more than a hundred thousand people were injured, cities were razed to the ground, millions of people lost their relatives, became homeless, unemployed and without a future in this series of earthquakes is not only the structural problems of Turkish capitalism, but also the unbridled neo-liberal policies of the AKP, the appropriation of the country’s resources to big capital, especially crony capital groups, and Erdoğan’s “one man regime”.
To summarize, the political responsibility for this earthquake disaster lies squarely with the AKP and, as a person, with Tayyip Erdoğan. Erdoğan is guilty against the laborers and the oppressed because during his 11 years as Prime Minister and 9 years as President with sole and plenipotentiary power, he protected and defended not the interests of the people, but primarily those of his own circle and the capitalist class in general. But he is only responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people and for leaving millions of people without a future because he did not take the necessary and adequate measures against this earthquake even though he knew that it was coming, on the contrary, he preferred rent politics instead of protecting people’s lives. For this reason alone, he should resign immediately. This government is illegitimate, the AKP-MHP alliance must leave the seats they hold without waiting for the elections.
As SYKP, we will pursue a political line that will force Tayyip Erdoğan, his ministers and senior institution managers to resign.
Declaration of the State of Emergency is not enough to prolong the life of the government
On the 2nd day of the earthquake, Erdoğan announced the declaration of a state of emergency for 3 months in 10 provinces where the earthquake caused the heaviest destruction (later these 10 provinces increased to 11 with the addition of Elazığ). The justification for the declaration of the state of emergency was to quickly take the necessary measures against the devastation of the earthquake. However, despite the declaration of the State of Emergency, the institutions, which had collapsed under the one-man regime, were unable to move to the field for days, could not fulfill their duties and aggravated the consequences of the earthquake.
In fact, one of the main reasons for Erdoğan’s declaration of the State of Emergency was to suppress the reactions against the government due to the earthquake disaster with his powers, which were further expanded by the State of Emergency. Another important reason for the declaration of the state of emergency is the opportunity to easily narrow the opposition’s field of action during the election process. The fact that almost all of the preparation and propaganda process of this vital election will take place under the state of emergency conditions will be challenging for the opposition forces.
However, in the face of the scale and depth of the earthquake disaster and the current incapacity and paralysis of the regime and the central administration, even the declaration of a state of emergency is not enough to close all the gaps that the opposition can exploit. We must continue to intervene in the process in a prudent, vigilant and agile manner. There are possibilities for this.
The closure of universities is not a solution, but a source of problems
The AKP-MHP government’s “solution” to the millions of people left on the streets due to the earthquake was neither to provide them with tents and then temporary containers, nor to place them in empty houses and hotels. The “easy” solution of the government was to close universities to face-to-face education, to evacuate the students staying in KYK dormitories and replace them with earthquake victims. Universities and students were the first to be sacrificed.
However, allocating KYK dormitories to earthquake victims did not and could not solve their housing problem. Because while the capacity of KYK dormitories is around 800 thousand, the number of empty houses is 1.6 million and the bed capacity in hotels is 1.8 million.
After nearly two years of face-to-face education during the pandemic, the decision to hold online classes this semester is a heavy blow to university education. Although about 10 per cent of university students live in the earthquake zone, the fact that all universities have switched to online education has created a separate strangeness.
The closure of universities to face-to-face education is another example of the political power’s hostility to science, its incompetence in the earthquake process and in the management of the country, and its prioritization of the interests of the capital class over those of the people.
We will both heal our wounds and give you an electoral defeat!
Some within the AKP argued that the population movements and the negative effects of the earthquake on social psychology made it impossible to hold the next elections, and therefore the elections should be postponed for one year. However, as a result of their evaluation, the AKP staff seems to have decided that it would be in their best interest to hold the elections as soon as possible, if possible on 14 May.
It is obvious that the AKP wants to hold the elections before the heavy trauma of the earthquake is fully exposed in the consciousness of the society, before the consequences of the economic dimension of the disaster are strongly reflected in the society, by spreading hope with the lie that “we will heal the wounds within a year” and before the candle of this lie is extinguished.
However, it is already clear that these calculations will not work. It is becoming increasingly clear that the AKP-MHP alliance, but personally Tayyip Erdoğan and his administration are responsible for this disaster. The widespread social solidarity movement that has been going on since the beginning of the earthquake, the extraordinary vibrancy on social media, the fact that hundreds of thousands of people overcame the wall of fear and expressed their anger through every channel are important indicators. Tens of thousands of people chanting “Government Resignation” at football matches and chanting “Lie lie lie lie, fraud fraud fraud fraud fraud, resign resignation” are other indicators.
The people have no more tolerance for this government even for one day. While healing the wounds of the earthquake on the one hand, on the other hand, we will put all our strength and skills as HDP/Labor and Freedom Alliance, socialist, revolutionary, democratic forces to win the vital elections to be held on 14 May or 18 June, to repel fascism, to overthrow this rotten power.
The politics of the coming period will pass through the earthquake prism
The impact of 6 February and the earthquakes that followed is not limited to the dead, injured, survivors and their relatives. On 6 February, Turkey as a whole was shaken; there was a multi-layered shaking in political, economic, demographic, social, etc. aspects. And the effects of these tremors will last for years. Of course, the basic economic, political and social problems of the country remain in place. But this great disaster is now at the center of politics and all political problems have to be seen through the prism of this disaster. As SYKP, we are also obliged to read politics in this way.
Social solidarity keeps us alive
Immediately after the first earthquake struck in the early hours of the morning of 6 February, thanks to the vast opportunities provided by internet communication, social sensitivity rose rapidly and the first steps to establish solidarity and support relations with the people in the earthquake zone began to be taken in various political segments, labor, professional, faith and democratic mass organizations. As soon as the news of the earthquake was received, the first groups of volunteers set out for the region and organizations started to collect cash and in-kind aid. On the 2nd and 3rd days, support and solidarity became more organized and aid trucks/vehicles reached the region. This social sensitivity and material and moral solidarity still continues to a great extent. Volunteers coming to the earthquake zone from various provinces undertook many tasks ranging from search and rescue to moral support, from distributing the aid to burying the bodies, and provided vital support to the people of the region while the state institutions did not show up for days or even weeks, or did not carry out any serious work when they did.
This very strong social support and solidarity movement was built on the experiences of the 1999 Gölcük-Düzce earthquakes. However, it also made extensive use of the possibilities of internet communication. Therefore, it was more widespread and more effective.
This solidarity-support movement was realized by the meeting of the bottom waves of the solidarist culture, which has been filtered through tens of thousands of years of communal traditions and thousands of years of oppressed class/people practices, with the current-vital need and consciousness of solidarity, against the competitive culture of capitalism that tries to take over our minds throughout our lives and through hundreds of channels. As a party, we have put the task of building solidarity networks before us for years and have been trying to realize it. However, the structure of the solidarity-support movement that took place after the earthquake of 6 February, which far surpassed its predecessors both quantitatively and qualitatively, showed us that we need to hang on to this dynamic much more strongly.
However, this solidarity-support movement has some weaknesses and limits: As a spontaneous movement, there are serious difficulties in ensuring its continuity and deepening its effectiveness. As a matter of fact, less than three weeks after the earthquake, as the intense emotions and excitement of the first days faded away, we observe that the in-kind aid sent to the region and the number of volunteers working in the region started to decline. However, the people of the region will need support and solidarity for months and even years to come.
On the other hand, the ideological-political affiliations of solidarity supporters will also affect the continuity of the solidarity-support movement. Some of them will tend to withdraw with the thought that “our work is done” when the state dominates the field. Again, those in the sphere of influence of the establishment parties will be content with opposition to the AKP, will not be able to put a clear distance between themselves and rentier policies, and will not be able to see the assimilationist effects of the permanent policies of the state on the peoples.
For these reasons, we are faced with the task of conducting a continuous ideological-political struggle within the solidarity-support movement in a flexible, creative but persistent and uninterrupted manner.
On the other hand, the limits of the solidarity-support movement in terms of providing aid to millions of people, revitalizing life and the economy in general, making macro-scale plans for the reconstruction of cities and finding financial resources are clear. Of course, the solidarity-support movement must have a say and influence on how all this is done. But it is the public power, the state, that will actually do these works. The struggle to mobilize the state/public in these areas will be one of the main elements of our political activity.
Geography of support and solidarity expanded
The field of activity of the support and solidarity movement is no longer limited to the earthquake region. Millions of people who could not find shelter in the settlements destroyed by the earthquake had to migrate to other provinces. At the moment, Mersin, Adana and Antalya are the provinces where earthquake migration is most intense. However, it is understood that there is and will continue to be earthquake migration to many other cities, especially big cities.
How the migrants will behave in the medium and long term, how many of them will stay and how many will return is a separate issue; but solidarity with the poor, especially among the migrants, is an extremely urgent task. People whose homes and workplaces have been destroyed, whose savings have been wiped out, who have had to migrate to unfamiliar cities with only the clothes on their backs, need all kinds of support and solidarity.
This situation puts new and challenging tasks before the solidarity movement. As SYKP, we will make every effort to organize solidarity with earthquake migrants.
We warn you: Do not try to play with the demographic fabric of the region
Adıyaman, Maraş and Antep, the provinces where the earthquake caused the greatest loss of life and material damage, are densely populated by Kurdish and Alevi populations, which the state has been trying to Turkify and Sunnify for a long time. At the same time, this region has long been a source of migration both to Europe and to other provinces in Turkey. The earthquake, which caused heavy losses, significantly strengthened this migration tendency. This will mean the “spontaneous” realization of the demographic change that the state has wanted to make for 100 years but has not been able to do so. For this reason, it is clear that the state will encourage this domestic and international migration.
There should be no doubt that the state will implement the same social engineering for Hatay in an even more planned-programmed and reckless manner. The center and some districts of Hatay are perhaps the settlements where the earthquake caused the heaviest destruction and where the majority of the population had to leave their living spaces. The districts with the most destruction are also the traditional centers of the Arab Alevi population: Samandağ, Defne and Antakya (centre), Arsuz and İskenderun. The same districts are also home to Arab Christian, to a lesser extent Armenian, and very few Jewish populations. Since the annexation of Hatay province by Turkey in 1939, the state has systematically sought to minoritise the Arab Alawite majority in favor of the Turkish and Sunni population, and to eradicate the Christian and Jewish populations from the region. Now it is using and will use this catastrophe for the same purpose.
On the other hand, there is currently a population of 2.5 million Sunnis, according to some estimates, under the control of jihadist, anti-Alawite organizations on the other side of the border, under the protection of Turkey. In the event of an agreement with the Syrian central government, the only destination for a large part of this population would be Turkey, and Hatay in particular. Therefore, the current situation poses a great danger for our Arab Alawite people.
Therefore, we must firmly oppose all overt and covert plans, incentives and coercion by the state to change the demography of the provinces devastated by the earthquake, especially Hatay. We must force state institutions and local governments to quickly rebuild the housing, health, education and working conditions of the people of the region who have been forced to move to other provinces because they lack shelter and minimum living conditions. Of course, we must carry out these activities by establishing stronger ties with the people of the region and by increasing solidarity and support.
Let’s not give in to migrant hostility
Immediately after the earthquake, the Zafer Party and similar fascist and racist centers launched a widespread hate propaganda, especially against Syrian migrants. People who could not live in the harsh conditions created by the war in Syria and migrated to Turkey – with the encouragement of the Turkish state – were labeled as “thieves and looters”. Especially in Hatay, this racist propaganda spread.
The anger and reaction accumulated in the people in the aftermath of the earthquake was directed towards the Syrian poor with this racist propaganda. Many migrants who lost their own relatives and tried to rescue them were beaten by calling them thieves or looters. Police and gendarmerie forces either turned a blind eye to these lynching attempts or, worse, instigated them.
As SYKP, we consider the borders of the state illegitimate and advocate the provision of humane living conditions for migrants of whatever nationality, whatever faith, who flee their country to save their lives or because of severe poverty, unemployment, political oppression, etc. and seek refuge in Turkey. We see the Syrian poor and laborers as our brothers and sisters, except for the jihadist gangs who commit war crimes and crimes against humanity and who are hostile to Alevis. It is out of the question for Syrian bosses and gangsters to live in the poor neighborhoods of Hatay.
We owe it to ourselves to raise the struggle against this racist-fascist movement that aims to shift the responsibility for the earthquake from the shoulders of the government to the Syrian poor and to change the target of anger and reaction.
Democratic Republic to heal the wounds of the earthquake
When the earthquake and its aftermath are evaluated alone, it is clear that it is our debt to overthrow this regime in the upcoming elections.
Because the earthquake has once again and very strongly shown that the one-man regime, which is oriented towards fascist dictatorship, always means more exploitation, more oppression and domination for the peoples, laborers and the oppressed; it is unable to fulfill even the minimum conditions of social life and causes great disasters.
If we do not overthrow this regime, it is obvious that we will not be able to rebuild our cities, our lives and social life in a democratic and libertarian way. The task of establishing a democratic republic that will heal the suffering of the peoples and laborers and solve their vital problems is more urgent than ever.
Socialist Refoundation Party (SYKP)
Centre Executive Committee