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Three radical discourses after Türkiye earthquake

Three radical discourses after Türkiye earthquake

Lies on social media, racist accusations and destructive political allegations are what consist of the 3 radical discourses that have emerged right after the disaster

Ten days have passed since the greatest catastrophe in Türkiye’s history. The death toll exceeded 35,000 on Tuesday, as rescue workers performed miracles by pulling people alive from the rubble. Meanwhile, there is a steady flow of aid to the disaster zone, attesting to the extraordinary solidarity among Turkish citizens. We have no choice but to keep that solidarity alive to heal the wounds of two major earthquakes and rebuild our devastated cities. We must continue helping the survivors. In fact, there is a need to develop a dynamic model to ensure that the donations correspond to people’s needs on the ground. Right now, local residents need tents, containers and heaters. Over the next days and weeks, they will need to go back to normal and build permanent housing units. We must further promote disaster preparedness across the country and rebuild all affected cities in line with policies that reflect that consciousness. It is certainly good news that the earthquakes damaged none of the public housing projects.

Multiple topics to discuss

The latest disaster, which impacted some 13.5 million people, will influence Türkiye in multiple ways. Politicians and the media will inevitably criticize the state, the government and decision-makers. Assessing the level of preparedness and the government’s post-disaster performance fall within the limits of politics. It is also normal for the opposition to question the ruling party. Indeed, we are compelled to respect the anger of all citizens who lost their loved ones. It is the politicians' responsibility to face that anger and do his or her best to alleviate the pain. However, three very serious problems have emerged in the aftermath of the twin earthquakes in Kahramanmaraş:
  • Lies on social media
  • Baseless and racist accusations targeting the Syrian community
  • Destructive political discourses portraying the state and public institutions as the enemy
There is an ongoing attempt to fuel “new political anger” against the Turkish President by compounding those three elements with the anti-Erdoğanism of the political opposition and the foreign media. In other words, there are people that want destructive anger to replace mourning.

Lies in every kind

All kinds of lies – from the state of hospitals and dams to the involvement of Turkish soldiers in relief efforts, alleged lootings and Syrian asylum seekers – have been circulated on social media platforms. To add insult to injury, that campaign, which exploits human emotions, has been backed by Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and PKK-affiliated users. One cannot expect such organizations, which inflicted severe damage to Türkiye, to legitimize themselves in the wake of a great catastrophe. At the same time, some politicians emerged as our country’s enemies by directing that anger toward Syrians, who experienced that same disaster alongside us. It is also unfair to claim that the “disaster of the century” – a phrase that refers to the twin earthquakes that devastated 10 Turkish provinces – is an attempt to “exaggerate the extent of what happened through perception operations to deny responsibility.” Unlike his right-wing allies, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu thinks of refusing to contact President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after such a disaster as politicking. Quite to the contrary, his actions amount to partisanship and self-marginalization. He could have stood in solidarity and criticized the government. Kılıçdaroğlu may have softened his tone due to mounting criticism, yet his position is alarmingly close to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Beyond politics

Indeed, Mithat Sancar, one of the HDP’s co-chairs, had no problem uttering the following words in his attempt to criticize the government’s disaster response, “What this government does best is organizing evil. This government is most skilled in the area of organizing evil.” Interestingly, Sancar did not forget to recognize the PKK terrorist organization's decision to stop their attacks due to the twin earthquakes as “an important step” whilst depicting the Turkish government as “organized evil.” It is possible to open the country’s political system to question or criticize politicians. Instrumentalizing anger to portray the state and public institutions as the enemy, however, is not politics. It is radicalism, marginalization and destruction. [Daily Sabah, February 16 2023]