“What an immoral, shameless, ungrateful being”.
These words and more were spouted out by the President of the Republic of Türkiye, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in desperation and anger. Such insults are so commonplace with him that one expects the opening lines of his address to the nation to be equally lethal.
He curses people and members of other political parties who, in the face of two devastating earthquakes, question the absence of the state, the army and the Red Crescent in the casualty arena.
People have lost members of their families; some are still under the rubble. Many have lost their homes and livelihoods and sleep out in the cold. The vast majority are still in shock, desperately trying to stay alive and to find their loved ones; they have yet to question why so many buildings were levelled and became the burial grounds of thousands of citizens, including members of their own families.
They hear people trapped under the rubble calling for help, watch the clock ticking, observe that these cries for help fade out and, in anger and desperation, they let off steam. It is a perfectly normal reaction.
President Erdoğan is angry too, but for a different reason… His election campaign has lost its impetus. All eyes are on his poor governance; strangulated by bureaucracy and red tape. He can no longer accuse the opposition of being inept. He doesn’t have the means to bribe the electorate and he can’t deceive the people.
He can’t tell them that he is ahead in the polls, that his AK Party, led by him for two decades, is still popular. He can’t order the media to confirm his statements, right or wrong.
“I can rebuild the ruined cities within a year” he proclaims, but no one believes him. The countless corpses still under the rubble bear evidence that he can’t and anyway, even if he could, he won’t.
The timing of the disaster could not have been worse for the man dubbed ‘emperor’; he has lost his credibility.
Even before the catastrophic earthquake struck, the AKP’s popularity among the electorate had fallen to a historic low of 23.3%, according to the findings of a poll by the Eurasia Public Research Center (AKAM) in January 2023. The chances of AKP losing the critical General and Presidential Elections later this year will have further increased in the aftermath of these devastating quakes.
The Turkish electorate have a bizarre habit of being extremely loyal to their political torturers, but even President Erdoğan’s most faithful voters would be hard pressed to defend their leader when he uses such foul language to describe angry survivors of the earthquake or members of the opposition parties who are critical of his administration.After all, if the head of state is forgiven for having anger management issues, why shouldn’t the same understanding be afforded to his citizens who are experiencing so much pain and hurt?
Scenes of devastation and rescue attempts in Hatay following the earthquake
🇦🇺What did we just witness? We still haven’t processed what has happened. May allah give strength to everyone that has been affected by these quakes. We haven’t stopped the help since day one. The more we get support the more we can get to help people. #devnaz #deprem #Hatay pic.twitter.com/OdcK6JzOUB
— devran naz (@devnazofficial) March 2, 2023
Fenerbahçe fans chant throughout entire match against Konyaspor calling on the Turkish government to resign over the earthquake, 25 Feb, 2023
Fenerbahçe tribünlerinden “hükümet istifa” tezahüratları.
Kahramanmaraş merkezli çifte deprem sonrasında iktidara yönelik öfke tribüne de yansıdı. Fenerbahçe taraftarları, Konyaspor maçı boyunca “Hükümet istifa” sloganları attı.#Deprem#depremler#depremzede pic.twitter.com/p6rjGrULWh
— Özgür Medya (@Ozgurmedya_tr) February 25, 2023
Türkiye’s head of state may well feel devastated for the loss of so many lives he couldn’t rescue and the economic deprivation that ensues in the aftermath of such a large-scale disaster, yet admitting failure and resigning is furthest from his thoughts.
Erdoğan is angry because the system he has set up hasn’t worked and is now letting him down in the months before a crucial election. The palace regime he established has become increasingly isolated from the people he is expected to serve and, arguably, from the rest of the world.
The people he has gathered around him seem inept; incompetent. The two earthquakes held a mirror to this. He may well be anxious that the electorate no longer believe in him. Perhaps he realises that his time is up?
It is not in Erdoğan’s nature to accept defeat, so he gets irate and tries to check the criticism by drowning them out with angry accusations of his own.
As his expiration date approaches fast, the Turkish president becomes increasingly aggressive and even more intolerant.
AKP have been in power for over twenty years, they are responsible for the building regulations and controls that led to thousands being buried under concrete buildings, with structures lacking vital materials such as cement in them.
Only time will tell whether Erdoğan will be allowed to rule Türkiye again.Interestingly, if he goes, the Turkish Cypriot government in North Cyprus, whose leaders were handpicked by the Erdoğan regime, will not waste any time in becoming critical of AKP. Indeed, it is likely they could become even more critical than the general Turkish Cypriot public, who are also deeply traumatised by the earthquake.
In Adıyaman, there were no survivors from a Turkish Cypriot school party who were staying at the Isıas Hotel – the eight-storey building was totally flattened by the earthquake. Regrettably, all 24 schoolchildren, along with their teachers and the parents and siblings accompanying them perished under the rubble.
Over 45,000 Turkish citizens and foreign residents lost their lives in the quake, with the death toll expected to be far higher after all the rubble from the thousands of collapsed buildings is cleared, and more bodies are found.
It doesn’t bear comparison, but grief is grief, and I will close with the words of my sister, a grandmother whose grandson Mustafa Sabancı, was among the schoolchildren tragically killed in Isıas Hotel. She, like all the other relatives of those who died at the hotel, demands justice.
There are fears that there will not be sufficient transparency in the legal process and some of those responsible for the negligent construction of this building may be protected. We will all fight tooth and nail to ensure justice prevails.
In Memory of Mustafa Sabancı (died in the Turkish earthquake in Feb. 2023, aged 13)
Bu gece Işığını yanık bıraktım, aydınlıkta ol diye
Üşümeyesin diye üstünü de örttüm
Gece boyunca control ettim seni, iyimisin diye
Altı günlük Adıyaman cehennemini geride bırakmanın huzuru vardı odanda
Sakın korkma can parçam, Yanımızdasın Mustafam
Tonight, I left the lamp on, so you can be in the light
I tucked your covers in to keep you warm
Throughout the night, I checked to make sure you were OK
Far from the six days of hell in Adıyaman, there was peace in your room
Don’t be afraid Mustafa, our darling boy. You are home now.
This article was penned by author Kazım Altan.
Main picture, top, of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on 1 March 2023 addressing AKP members in Ankara over plans to hold the General and Presidential Elections on 14 May 2023.