Turkey: Grief gives way to anger over Turkey’s earthquake response

ANTAKYA: When Zafer Mahmut Boncuk’s apartment building collapsed in Turkeyis wreaking havoc earthquakehe discovers his 75-year-old mother is still alive — but sandwiched under the rubble.
For hours, Boncuk frantically searched for someone in the ruined ancient city of Antakya to help him free her. He was able to talk to her, hold her hand and give her water. However, despite his pleas, no one came, and she died on Tuesday, the day after the earthquake.
Like many others in Turkey, his sadness and disbelief turned to rage when he felt there had been an unfair and ineffective response to the historic disaster that has killed thousands of people. tens of thousands of people there and in Syria.
Boncuk directed his anger at President Recep Tayyip Turkey, especially since she seemed so close to the rescue but no one came. Her remains were finally moved on Sunday, nearly a week after the building collapsed. His father’s body was still lying in the rubble.
“What if it was your biological mother, dear Recep Tayyip Erdogan? What happened to being a world leader? Where are you? Where?” he yelled.
“I gave her water to drink, I cleared the mess from her face. I told her I would save her. But I failed,” said Boncuk, 60. “The last time we spoke, I asked if I should help her drink water. She said no, so I put some water on her lips. Ten minutes later, she died.”
He blamed it on “a lack of understanding, lack of information and care – that’s why my mother died right in front of my eyes.”
Many in Turkey expressed similar frustration that rescue operations have been painfully slow since the February 6 earthquake and that precious time has been lost in the process. narrow to find survivors.
Others, particularly in the southern province of Hatay near the Syrian border, say that Erdogan’s government has been slow to provide assistance to the hardest-hit region because of what they suspect is both political and religious reasons.
In the southeastern town of Adiyaman, Elif Busra Ozturk waited outside the rubble of a building on Saturday, where her uncle and aunt were trapped and presumed dead and where the body was found. body of her two cousins.
“For three days, I waited outside for help. No one came. There are so few rescue teams that they can only intervene in places where they are sure there are people alive,” she said.
At the same complex, Mr. Abdullah Tas, 66, said he slept in a car near the building where his son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren are buried. He said rescuers arrived for the first time four days after the quake struck. The Associated Press was unable to independently verify its claims.
“What good does that do for the people under the rubble?” he asks.
Eyewitnesses stand behind police tape on Saturday in Antakya as bulldozers rake into a luxury high-rise apartment building that has overturned.
According to relatives watching the recovery efforts, more than 1,000 residents were in the 12-story building when the quake struck. They said hundreds of people were still inside but complained that their rescue efforts were slow and not serious.
“This is a brutal act, I don’t know what to say,” said Bediha Kanmaz, 60. The bodies of his seven-month-old son and grandson were pulled from the building – still cradled in his arms – but his daughter, brother-in-law, remained in the house.
“We open the body bags to see if they are ours, we check if they are our children. We even checked the ones that were torn to pieces,” she said of herself and other grieving loved ones.
Kanmaz also blamed the Turkish government for its slow response and accused the national rescue force of not doing enough to save survivors.
She and others in Antakya expressed the belief that the presence of a large minority of Alevis – an Anatolian Muslim community distinct from Sunni and Shia and Alawite Muslims in Syria – made the government less of a priority for them. Traditionally, few Alevis voted for Erdogan’s ruling party. However, there is no evidence that the area was overlooked for sectarian reasons.
Erdogan said on Wednesday that disaster recovery efforts were continuing in all 10 affected provinces and dismissed accusations of not having help from state institutions such as the military as “lies, slanders, lies, slander, and lies.” falsification”.
But he has admitted shortcomings. Officials said rescue efforts in Hatay were initially complicated by the damaged runway at the local airport and poor road conditions.
However, anger about the extent of destruction is not limited to individuals. Turkish authorities have arrested or issued detention orders for dozens of people believed to be involved in the construction of collapsed buildings, and the justice minister has vowed to punish those responsible. duty.
Kanmaz blamed the owner’s negligence on the apartment building where her family was killed.
“If I could put my arm around the contractor’s neck, I would tear him to pieces,” she said.
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported that the contractor, who oversaw the construction of the 250-apartment building, was detained at Istanbul airport on Friday before boarding a flight to leave the country. On Saturday, he was officially arrested. His attorney suggested the public was looking for a scapegoat.
In multi-ethnic southern Turkey, other tensions are growing. Some expressed frustration that the Syrian refugees who fled to the area after their brutal civil war were burdening a sparse welfare system and competing for resources with the Turks.
“There are many poor people in Hatay, but they do not provide us with any welfare; they gave it to the Syrians. They give a lot to the Syrian people,” Kanmaz said. “There are more Syrians than Turks here.”
There were signs on Saturday that tensions could boil over.
Two aid groups from Germany and the Austrian Armed Forces have temporarily interrupted their rescue work in the Hatay region citing concerns for the safety of their staff. They resumed work after the Turkish army defended the area, a spokesman for the Austrian Defense Ministry wrote on Twitter.
“Tensions are growing between different groups in Turkey,” Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Kugelweis of the Austrian Armed Forces told the APA news agency. “The shots are said to have been fired.”
German news agency dpa reported that Steven Berger, executive director of aid group ISAR Germany, said that “it can be seen that grief is slowly giving way to anger” in affected areas of Turkey. Ky.
For Kanmaz, it was a mixture of grief and anger.
“I’m angry. Life is over,” she said. “We live for our children; the most important thing to us are our children. We survive if they exist. Now we’re over Everything you see here is over.


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