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Making It Political Already? Why Turkey's Earthquake Is Not Just A Natural Disaster

The government in Ankara doesn't want to question the cause of the high death toll in the earthquake that struck along the Turkey-Syria border. But one Turkish writer says it's time to assign responsibility right now.

photo of Erdogan at the earthquake site

President Erdogan surveys the damage on Wednesday

Office of the Turkish Presidency
Dağhan Irak


ISTANBUL — We have a saying in Turkey: “don’t make it political” and I am having a hard time finding the right words to describe how evil that mindset is. It's as if politics is isolated from society, somehow not connected to how we live and the consequences of choices taken.

Allow me to translate for you the “don’t make it political” saying's real meaning: “we don’t want to be held accountable, hands off.”

It means preventing the public from looking after their interests and preserving the superiority of a certain type of individual, group and social class.

In order to understand the extent of the worst disaster in more than 20 years, we need to look back at that disaster: the İzmit-Düzce earthquakes of 1999.

Because we have before us a regime that does not care about anything but its own interests; has no plan but to save itself in times of danger; does not believe such planning is even necessary (even as it may tinker with the concept in case there is something to gain from it); gets more mafioso as it grows more partisan — and more deadly as it gets more mafioso.

Yes, we need to protect our people not just from the earthquakes but from this regime, too.

Public relations is not politics

The country has been handed over to a contractor, who demolished Turkey and replaced it with structures built on sand and sea. The deadly contractors of the past are nothing compared to the development apparatus of the mafia-state of the past 20 years.

There will be those who will say, “We are in the middle of the disaster, is this the right time to be talking about this? A whole country is joining together to try to help the victims." But even now, planes cannot land at airports built on dried lakes, the construction tenders have been distributed in a way that leaves us with roads scattered in different directions as the aid tries to reach the people in need.

What we are experiencing today is the result of blind partisanship and greed.

Yet at the same time, a real effort is being made in terms of public relations, just in case. Officials of the AKP ruling party were sent to the field to repeat the cliched statements to the cameras of the pro-government media. All they have to do is look human when they do so, but are incapable of even that.

[Update: BBC reports Wednesday afternoon that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on a visit to Hatay, among the hardest hit regions, said: "It is not possible to be prepared for a disaster this big." Calling for "unity and solidarity," Erdogan added that: "in a period like this, I cannot stomach people conducting negative campaigns for political interest."]

The regime of the mafioso party-state did the exact opposite of what science had dictated following the 1999 earthquake, and did it deliberately in order to create a new financial aristocracy that is dependent on them.

What we are experiencing today is the result of a decades-long disaster caused by blind partisanship and greed. The AKP have run this country for two decades with a mentality of “after us, the flood.” They never had the intention of doing something properly and they never will.

Accountability matters

Making this clear is not “making something political,” on the contrary, it is participating in politics in order to prevent destruction like this from happening in the future. It is asking for the return of stolen public funds. It is stating that “you either do this job properly or be held accountable, whether you want it or not.”

Let no one fool themselves: Deaths by earthquakes can be political, too. You cannot prevent the earthquake but you can control the results of the disaster — if that is your intention.

Pointing at those with other intentions is not “making it political,” it is an attempt to keep the arsonists who've been roaming among us with gas cans away from the next fire.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

War, Corruption And The Overdue Demise Of Ukrainian Oligarchs

The invasion of Russia has forced Ukraine to confront a domestic enemy: corruption and economic control by an insular and unethical elite.

Photograph of three masked demonstrators holding black smoke lights.

May 21, 2021, Ukraine: Demonstrators hold smoke bombs outside the Appeal Court of Kyiv.

Olena Khudiakova/ZUMA
Guillaume Ptak


KYIV — Since Russia’s invasion, Ukraine's all-powerful oligarchs have lost a significant chunk of their wealth and political influence. However, the fight against the corruption that plagues the country is only just beginning.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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On the morning of September 2, several men wearing balaclavas and bullet-proof waistcoats bearing the initials "SBU" arrived at the door of an opulent mansion in Dnipro, Ukraine's fourth largest city. Facing them, his countenance frowning behind thin-rimmed glasses, was the owner of the house, the oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky.

Officers from the Ukrainian security services had come to hand him a "suspicion notice" as part of an investigation into "fraud" and "money laundering". His home was searched, and shortly afterwards he was remanded in custody, with bail set at 509 million hryvnias, or more than €1.3 million. A photo of the operation published that very morning by the security services was widely shared on social networks and then picked up by various media outlets.

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