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[OPINION] This is political, Mr. President!

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Yasemin Aydın*

After two devastating earthquakes in southern Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “Words are not enough to express our grief.” In that, he was absolutely right. The earthquakes had claimed tens of thousands of lives. Then he added, “It’s impossible to be prepared for such a massive earthquake.”

Here, Mr. President, you are absolutely wrong, and you know that very well. You are lying to your people once again.

Earthquakes are natural disasters, and we don’t have the ability to prevent them. But the destruction they cause has a lot to do with the level of preparedness, and that is intolerably political. And you have failed, Mr. President.

It is political, Mr. President, because as you proudly said during the 2018 election campaign, you granted a construction amnesty to nearly 300,000 buildings in the earthquake zone. You allowed people to live in these unauthorized buildings, and thousands of people died. You did this in a country that is prone to earthquakes, which shows the value you place on human life.

Yes, it is political, Mr. President, because the earthquake area was flooded with aid from nongovernmental organizations and individual donations, and all you had to do was coordinate. But you could not. You were too late with your directives and too messy in their execution, and you were absent at crucial moments.

It is political, Mr. President, because you failed to deploy the armed forces, the most highly organized manpower in the country. Maybe you were too afraid of them doing something when they were out in the streets, or perhaps you just didn’t want the army to take credit for the rescue. After all the criticism on social media, you felt compelled to deploy fewer than an adequate number of troops. Again, too little, too late. You put yourself between the people and the army.

A few years ago you united all meaningful authorities under your person, claiming that you would remove the sluggish bureaucracy from the decision-making process. But when you were needed, you were nowhere to be found:

AFAD, the government agency responsible for disaster response, waited too long for your instructions, and thousands of people died of hypothermia under the rubble. You could not even react in those critical moments, let alone lead. You were not there. You didn’t react, you didn’t lead, you weren’t there.

And when you finally did arrive in the earthquake zone, what did you do? As always you feared the free media and clamped down on Twitter. Twitter was the primary line of communication for people under the rubble and those who rushed to help them. Your public image was more important than those who died needlessly because they lost their lifeline. That was outrageously and inexplicably political, Mr. President.

Due to an unyielding habit, you were discriminating even in a life-and-death struggle. You phoned and consulted the mayors of provinces from your own party, but you did not call the mayor of the largest province in the earthquake zone, Adana, because he was from the main opposition. Then, in the evening, you made a rather reluctant phone call, but again, you were too late. Anyway, when it comes to responsibility, you have never been the president of the whole nation. You have a fatal lack of ability to bring people together, even in the face of major disasters.

You have even threatened victims who were desperate for help. They referred to being arrested while talking about their loved ones under the rubble. Maybe these people died just to make you look bad and it was an international conspiracy, right?

Undoubtedly, the only thing that matters to you is staying in power, and you’re willing to sacrifice the lives of your citizens to do it.

The army of trolls you command on social media targeted two of the most influential initiatives, one led by a social media influencer and the other by a rock star. You had destroyed the public’s trust in state institutions with your corrupt regime, and people were donating through nongovernmental initiatives. Even that was evil in your eyes.

This disaster is very political, Mr. President. So much so that while people were still waiting for help under the rubble, Bülent Arınç — your once-right-hand man who stripped himself of anything remotely human — proposed postponing the elections that were to be held in three months. We all know that the only thing that matters to you is staying in power.

You have absolute power in your one-man regime, and the devastating consequences of these earthquakes are on your head. So don’t you dare pretend to care. We all know the truth – that you are a corrupt leader who cares only about himself.

The consequences of the earthquakes are purely political, and you are absolutely responsible.

Yes, you are, Mr. President, yes, you are!

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