How to sink a country?
There is not really any way to stop natural disasters because, as the name implies, they come from nature. There were natural disasters on the Earth before there were people. Human beings have been trying to find ways to survive through these disasters the entire time we have inhabited this planet.
Nevertheless, even today, cities experience great difficulties in the face of a violent storm or heavy snowfall. Roads close, making it difficult to get around as usual. But in countries that value human life, there is little to no loss of life in a natural disaster.
In countries like Japan where there are frequent earthquakes, they build structures that can withstand a major earthquake. In accidents like the one in Fukushima, those responsible resign from their jobs and accept the necessary penalties. Likewise, after snowstorms or heavy rains, appropriate disaster management measures are taken, and officials who make mistakes are punished accordingly.
Turkey has faced a few disasters in the last couple of weeks. First, a strong earthquake struck the eastern provinces of Elazığ and Malatya. 39 people were killed, thousands were injured, and many buildings were rendered uninhabitable. After that, in the eastern province of Van, a minibus full of passengers was trapped under an avalanche. The rescuers attempting to reach the victims were buried under a second avalanche, resulting in the deaths of 41 people.
While people were still recovering from the shock of those two natural disasters, three more people died in plane crash at Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the Asian side of Istanbul.
Let’s deal with these disasters in order. People died in Elazığ and Malatya because the regions sit on fault lines, but the buildings are not strong enough to withstand earthquakes. People know their buildings are safe, but they cannot afford to move anywhere else. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may describe these deaths as “fate,” but the truth is a little different. Building unsafe structures in a known earthquake zone is not fate.
It’s not right to cling to a belief in “fate” not to reveal who is responsible for building and inspecting unsound structures or who is really responsible for these deaths. It became clear they are trying to protect someone when in the Turkish parliament, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its coalition partners, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), voted to block a proposal to establish a commission to investigate the earthquake.
It’s scary to think about what would happen if there were an earthquake in a populous city like Istanbul when we see what happens in less-populated regions like Elazığ.
As for the avalanches in Van, we can see evidence of cities to the east of Ankara not having received any investment or funding for development since the early days of modern Turkey. Over the years, we have seen accidents after heavy snows, with crews attempting to open village roads and dig people out of avalanches. This is not actually the result of fate—it’s because these regions are not receiving the necessary funding and training.
In particular, what happened to the rescue team after the second avalanche once again shows how old and lacking Turkey’s disaster management is. Works on earthquakes are not just for predicting the date and power of an earthquake, but for drafting a work plan in case a stronger tremor hits the country. Now, it is not known who is in charge of what and when, and no plans have been laid out.
The plane accident at Sabiha Gökçen Airport is the last link in a chain of disasters stemming from the clash between science and predestinarian thinking. The deadly disaster killed three people and injured 179 others. This unfortunate accident was a result of errors of judgement, insufficient infrastructure investment and stubborn ignorance of technical know-how.
Meanwhile, Atatürk Airport, now only used by the highest-level officials, was not presented for landing commercial flights after the crash at Sabiha Gökçen, which was like an invitation for another accident. Fortunately, another accident did not happen.
These three incidents in the last couple of weeks are not different from one another. They are the result of state leaders putting religion and profit before knowledge and science.
From this perspective, Turkey is increasingly starting to look like Gotham, one of the comic book world’s darkest places. Gotham was once a glittering metropolis, but over time, corruption and bribery began to take hold, and the city eventually fell into the hands of people with the power of money and the law behind them. Even Superman did not have the power to save such a degenerate place, and what is special about Batman is that he is the only one who can fight this corruption. Batman, one of the greatest detectives in the world, is just trying to bring back the city’s good old days.
Such a corrupt place is a slice of paradise for criminals. This is why so many bad guys try to take control of Gotham. Sometimes they go up against each other and sometimes they work together. When this is happening, Gotham’s upstanding and educated people go to other cities. In a way, they are escaping from a city that is tied to their futures with a cotton thread.
Today, Turkey took another step towards being more like Gotham. Just as it is not possible to speak about the rule of law, these disasters show that that no one cares about safety or public health. Although some groups accuse each other of trying to ruin the country, they are able to forget the entire past when it comes to their own interests.
With trained and educated young people leaving Turkey every day, ten years from now, Turkey could be used as an example in a study on “how to sink a country.”
Gotham is a fictional city, and at least it has Batman to sort things out. Turkey is a real country, and unfortunately, there are no superheroes to save it.
But is it not possible to turn all of this around? Of course, it is, but the scale of this devastation is currently so huge and widespread that bringing Turkey up to a certain standard within several decades seems unlikely. What we are stuck with now is a period of unending devastation, and the pillage continues at breakneck speed.
© Ahval English
The views expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.