On 6 February 2023, 7,8m and 7,5m magnitude of earthquakes hit Türkiye, and according to official figures in Turkey, at least 48,448 people lost their lives, while in Syria at least 8,476 people lost their lives and a total of more than 129 thousand people were injured.
A total of 6,444 buildings were destroyed, including 310 in Kahramanmaraş, 1278 in Hatay, 581 in Gaziantep and also, it affected 11 cities in Turkey. The first 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred at 4:17 a.m. local time, and the second one which was 7.5 magnitude, occurred right after 9 hours in southeast Turkey near the Syrian border. About 14,000 aftershocks of up to 6.7 Mw magnitude took place after the earthquakes.
“Our neighborhood is disappeared, they called our neighborhood a corpse lake.”Says Deniz Rende, from Hatay, Armutlu.
On February 7, a state of emergency was declared in 10 provinces affected by the earthquake for 3 months which was after one day that the earthquake took place. Since the earthquake occurred in a massive area, inadequacies in search and rescue efforts and Decencies in the delivery of aid that should be sent to earthquake areas attracted a reaction among Turkish people. The collapse of newly built buildings during the earthquake caused doubts about the standards of building solidity in public opinion.
Where the 88 billion Turkish liras collected from the “earthquake tax”, which was started to be levied by the Turkish government for the development of disaster prevention and emergency services after the 1999 Gölcük earthquake, were spent, has never been publicly disclosed. In the period after the earthquake, coordination problems occurred as a result of the miscommunication caused by damage to telephone lines in the region. These problems, which could not be solved for a long time, gathered public reaction again.
Two days after the earthquake, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a statement at the State Information Coordination Center based in Kahramanmaraş. Erdogan stressed that taking into account the devastating impact of the earthquake spreading to 10 cities, they ordered specialist personnel and vehicles all over the country to move to the region immediately, and despite the difficulties caused by weather conditions, teams struggled selflessly to reach the disaster zone and participate in the work. However, even while people were still under the buildings, the government stated that they sent help to everyone, again which caused to public reaction. While the Turkish Government was telling that everyone reached out to help, people asked no one came here so, where is the government?
“People waited help under the buildings for days, and I wished that my neighboors died at the first place so they didn’t suffer.”Deniz Rende, Hatay.
Erdoğan, along with his speech, stated that “When the day comes, we will also open the notebook that we are currently keeping. Our prosecutors identify those who try to create social chaos with such inhumane methods and take the necessary actions quickly.” His word and expression choose a gathered public reaction.
On the afternoon of February 8, the Turkish government restricted access to Twitter from Turkey via BTK, which was reported by the cyber security and internet observatory NetBlocks. The access barrier was criticized because it would interfere with relief efforts and communication of the survivors under the wreckage since people asked for help via Twitter and Instagram.
An earthquake relief campaign has been launched by AFAD. AFAD, Disaster, and Emergency Management Authority, which is a relief campaign under the Prime Ministry of Türkiye stated that 12,752 AFAD volunteers were dispatched to the region from Istanbul as of 06.00. However, another relief campaign AHBAP which is funded by Haluk Levent received more donations and support than AFAD from the beginning of the earthquake. People asked for help from AHBAP via social media accounts. Famous singer Madonna also called for donations to AHBAP. The fact that people trusted AHBAP more than AFAD which is controlled by the government created controversy.
Another controversy among Turkish people occurred when AHBAP revealed that they bought urgent needs like tents and food from The Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay). Since Kızılay is a non-profit, voluntary social service organization that provides assistance and services gratuitously and works for the public benefit in Türkiye, people stated that Kızılay should provide help to victims without requiring any money. However, no official resigned after that case.
Moreover, national tv channels which are controlled by the government didn’t let people make their voices heard. While the national TV channel Haberturk, owned by Ciner Yayın Holding, was broadcasting the earthquake live in Hatay-Iskenderun, turned down the voice of a citizen who said to the reporter, “Erdogan says; AFAD was here, where are they?” Also, the same TV channel was broadcasting jointly with Show TV, Show TV reporter Tuğba Södekoğlu interrupted a citizen who complained about the lack of teams on live TV and turned the camera in another direction.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited earthquake victims two days after the earthquake. Erdogan, who visited the earthquake victims, said, “These are things that are in the destiny plan.” However, people stated that it is not destiny because the massive amount of loss could’ve been prevented by building better buildings or creating a better relief campaign. On May 14th, Erdogan asked for halal which means giving Turkish people blessing him or forgiving him. However, the anger towards him was massive that a hashtag was created in Türkiye #HakkımızıHelalEtmiyoruz which means we are not forgiving and giving blessings.
It’s been one month since the earthquake disaster happened in Türkiye. Although most people think that there is no need to make donations or give emotional support, people still need your help. Please keep on praying and donating to Turkey. We hope that everyone will feel safe and happy one day. You are not alone.
If you need help, please keep in contact with one of your loved ones, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from one of the professionals. You are loved.
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