This article was last updated on February 6, 2024
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Remembering the Victims of the Earthquake
One year has passed since Turkey was struck by a major earthquake, causing devastation to more than 50,000 individuals. In remembrance of this national tragedy, several gatherings have taken place; particularly in the damaged province of Hatay. Residents of Antakya, Hatay’s capital, have utilized these commemorations not only as a form of remembrance but also as an opportunity to protest against the authorities’ slow response to the devastation. As per news reports, approximately 10,000 individuals attended a gathering in Antakya. In a poignant tribute at 4:17 am; the exact moment the initial quake was felt, a minute’s silence was observed. Emotionally, attendees displayed photographs of loved ones lost to the disaster, and hundreds of candles illuminating the remains of collapsed structures.
Amid the silent remembrance, a voice of discontent was rising. The mourners were not just victims, they were outraged citizens. “Why weren’t they there then?” A cry, calling out the authorities lack of initiative towards earthquake-proofing homes. They believe such negligence led to an inefficient, untimely relief effort resulting in more lives being lost to the rubble. Protests echoed with cries of “Can anyone hear my voice?” and “We won’t forget.” As officials graced the memorial, altercations erupted between protestors and police forces. In the midst of the grief, anger was palpable; explicit calls for administrator’s resignation could be heard, marking their presence at the commemoration as unwelcomed. Across southeastern Turkey, the picture remained the same. People, in heartfelt commemorations, matching in silence past symbolic remnants of the tragedy, such as a permanently stilled clock tower in Adiyaman.
Insights from Turkey correspondent Mitra Nazar
In its struggle for recovery, Turkey’s deep-rooted polarization reflects in people’s reactions towards the catastrophe. A part of the population continues to defend Erdogan’s government, arguing that no government should be held accountable for natural disasters. However, a larger proportion counter this, demanding thorough examination of the state’s role in the catastrophic condition of the affected buildings. Last year saw the arrest of around 200 individuals, primarily contractors and architects, who failed to uphold strict building regulations, contributing to the multiple building collapses. Despite intense public outrage, not a single high-ranking official has faced charges or resignation. Erdogan’s ambitious target of reconstructing 319,000 homes within a year remains unfulfilled, with merely 46,000 houses ready. Majority of the victims continue to reside in make-shift container homes.
A Message from President Erdogan
Standing firm amidst criticism, President Erdogan continues to reassure the public that his government provided immediate assistance with all available resource and emphasizes the crucial need for national unity, labeling the event as the “disaster of the century”. He extends his condolences to the victims and their families