The İzmir earthquake: how I witnessed murder

On Friday, an earthquake in the Aegean rocked Turkey’s western İzmir province. There are various reports on its severity, but the U.S. Geological Survey said it measured 7.0 on the Richter Scale. This is a severe earthquake in our country, where the structural foundation of buildings, along with other elements, is very problematic.

I am going to attempt to describe the aftermath of the İzmir earthquake, the ones that occurred before and, God forbid, will occur through two famous murder mystery stories.

The first is the 1966 film “Blow Up”, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, which won the prestigious Golden Palm award in Cannes in 1967. The movie hit the silver screen in Turkey with the title “Cinayeti Gördüm” (“I Witnessed Murder”).

And, to understand who the perpetrators are, I also recommend the “Murder on the Orient Express” by famous detective writer Agatha Christie, whose 1934 novel has been adapted to film numerous times.

Those who have read the novel or seen its adaptation to film know that detective Hercule Poirot uncovers that the murder was a collective act and that all the potential suspects had participated in it, in some capacity.

I too witnessed a murder, and I hope that those reading this article have as well, because if tens and hundreds of people are dying in earthquakes measuring the same in intensity as those in Japan, where people do not even abandon their workplace, then this matter exceeds being a mere geological event.

So, the classic question to ask is: "Who did it?". I would like to share the crowded cast of murderers in this case.

The murderers are not limited to those listed in this article, as I am no detective Poirot and can only see some of the collective killers and shed light on a portion of the killings.

Below are the dates of the “Zoning Amnesty” laws published in the Official Gazette of Turkey since 1948:

  1. June 22, 1948
  2. July 6, 1948
  3. June 11, 1949
  4. July 29, 1953
  5. July 29, 1959
  6. July 30, 1966
  7. March 21, 1983
  8. March 8, 1984
  9. June 7, 1986
  10. May 26, 1987
  11. March 11, 1988
  12. July 18, 2001
  13. March 31, 2003
  14. July 6, 2005
  15. July 21, 2005
  16. July 26, 2008
  17. May 31, 2012
  18. April 15, 2015
  19. May 18, 2018   

A very esteemed teacher of mine used to say that it was meaningless to translate certain Turkish zoning terms into English as they lacked meaning in Turkish to begin with. Try to translate the term “Zoning Amnesty” into English and see how British parliamentarians react.

As seen in the lengthy Zoning Amnesty list above, there have been a total of 19 laws passed to effectively legalise illegal structures in Turkey between 1948 and 2020. Each amnesty law was issued every 3.8 years, making this a complete political-legislative scandal.

The list covers periods in Turkey, including: the single-party era of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the rule of the right-wing Democrat Party (DP), President Süleyman Demirel's term, President Turgut Özal's term, military takeovers, the Democratic Left Party (DSP)-Motherland Party (ANAP)-Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) government coalition and the current rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Lawmakers who voted in favour of the 19 zoning amnesties are collectively responsible for the deaths of at least 114 people in the latest earthquake. The collective intent is evident; one can see how the laws were passed through Turkish parliament by way of alliances each time.

Another noteworthy detail is that as soon as parliament passes one law, it passes a second associated law up to three weeks later to relieve concerns by parliamentarians who were not involved in the first process, leading to a subsequent effort to include them.

The truth is, I have witnessed murder in İzmir, a collective multiple homicide.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.