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Turkey

Turkey's Mining Toll, Dirge Of A Tragedy Deepened By Its Leaders

More than 300 dead in last week's mining disaster in Soma, rage from the people, and utter insensitivity from an Erdogan government interested only in its own fate.

People rescue the trapped miners in Soma
People rescue the trapped miners in Soma
Ahmet Hakan

SOMA — This stairs were just in front of me, a corridor of soldiers standing guard.

Ambulances were waiting at the end of the corridor, while I waited in front of the stairs.

The sirens grew louder.

Then, a stretcher appears, carried by a search-and-rescue team: on it is the body of a miner in a black body bag. Into the ambulance.

Eight bodies were brought down from this stairs in the two hours I waited there.

The same routine each time: the same siren, same stretcher, same body bag. And after eight bodies, I did not have the strength to stand there anymore. I could not bear to watch anymore, and so I left the entrance of the mine.

Hello Mr. Minister

Not long after, not far from the mine, I would wind up running into Energy Minister Taner Yildiz.

The atmosphere was tense, the minister was facing minor acts of protest. We spoke, and in his words, one could hear the psychology of someone wrongfully accused despite his best efforts.

He said there was no worker at the age of 15 in the mine, as rumored. He declared that he would resign if that would be proven to be the case, and warned against trying to create a symbol like the "Berkin of Gezi," referring to the innocent teen who became the martyr of last year's Istanbul clashes.

He complained to me about false information being spread. But soon, the situation was getting too tense. "Let us leave Mr. Minister," his bodyguard said.

And we said our goodbyes.

Erdogan fiasco

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan"s statement regarding the disaster at Soma was one of the worst moments of his political career.

Why?

I can list some reasons:

1. Instead of strongly stating "those who are responsible of negligence in this matter will answer in court," he said: "there is something called work-related accidents in the literature" and tried to downplay the incident.

2. He went as far as England of the 1860s to create the perception of "such accidents happen everywhere."

3. He said "this is in the nature of this business."

On nature

If dying this kind of death is in the very nature of being a miner...

Being protested against is in the nature of being prime minister.

If disasters are part of mining...

Understanding for the protester is what is required of a prime minister.

If workplace accidents go along with the nature of labor...

Manhandling the protester cannot be accepted of political leaders.

If worker deaths are inevitable...

Negligence is not.

If mine accidents with major death tolls are part of the history of the 1860s...

Even mine accidents with lower death tolls should not be part off 2010s.

Not another Gezi

More than three hundred workers are dead.

And in such a situation, you, Mr. Prime Minister, think: "What if our enemies would hurt our government by using this event? What would we do?...What if something like the Gezi Events or the death of someone like Berkin Elvan would occur? What would we do?"

"What if the people's perception of the government would be manipulated? What would we do?"

Gentlemen!

Does it not look inhuman to you that in the middle of all this pain, death and mourning the only thing you care about is your precious government?

If you want the focus only to be the future of your government, then you must do nothing but focus on the deaths, the mourning, finding those who are responsible, exposing the negligence, going after the guilty.

In doing so, you would also be focusing on the future of your government; and your precious government would be fine in the end.


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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Why I Fled: Meet The Russian Men Choosing Exile Over Putin's War

After Vladimir Putin announced a national military draft, thousands of men are fleeing the country. Independent Russian news platform Vazhnye Istorii spoke to three men at risk of conscription who've already fled.

A mobilized man says goodbye to his daughter in Yekaterinburg.

Vazhnye Istorii

A mix of panic, violence and soul-searching has followed Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement of a partial mobilization of 300,000 men to fight the increasingly difficult “special operation” in Ukraine.

Soon after the announcement, protests were reported in Moscow and around the country, with at least 2,000 people being detained during the past several days. It is still unclear how successful these protests will be.

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

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More notably, the mobilization decree also prompted more than 260,000 men of conscription age to leave left the country. Observers believe that number will continue to grow, especially as long as the borders stay open. Almost all men aged 18-65 are eligible, but some professions, including banking and the media, are exempt.

Vazhnye Istorii, an independent Russian investigative news platform based in Latvia, spoke to three of the many thousands who have chosen to flee the country.

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