Soma and realities of Turkey

Published 20.05.2014 01:49
Updated 20.05.2014 02:06

On May 14, Turkey experienced its deadliest mining disaster in a coal mine in Soma in the country's western province of Manisa. The accident in the coal mine, which is run at the helm of a private company, culminated in the deaths of 301 people. For days, the country has been living with this nightmare. The whole world shares our sorrow, because great pains like this do not only have a unifying effect across countries but they arouse worldwide attention as well. Some of the consolation comes from this display of mutual empathy and sharing.

However, we do not have the ability to resurrect our deceased mineworkers; it is no longer possible to turn the clock back and make up for all the omissions and shortcomings that paved the way for this tragedy to occur. What we should do is learn a hard lesson from this tragedy and look ahead to carve out a better future. We should do whatever is needed to avoid such a calamity again.

For at least a century, Turkey was afflicted by an unyielding oligarchic state that was neither human-centric nor ecocentric. Previously, even human death was not regarded as newsworthy. Even worse, those who passed away during the struggle with the PKK used to be disparaged in a holiday atmosphere. The poor had no worth at all, like the indigent people who were subject to inhuman treatment in front of the filthy and squalid hospitals and left for dead. During the long winter times, an almost silent massacre took place in the villages.
Due to snowcapped rural roads, patients, pregnant women and the elderly were stranded in villages only to face a bitter end. All of this did not cause crisis in the state. There was not even a sign pointing toward equality in the fields of education and work.

Even if we are in a much more different country now, we still feel the shadow of the old on us. A number of significant reforms have been made in the last 12 years but this does not change the fact that deficiencies and miscues still exist. Rapid and random economic development is neither human-centric nor ecocentric. It is obvious that the government needs a new perspective on this matter. The Gezi crisis was truly manipulated for a coup plot. But the reason it gained interest and support within society was that major projects disturbed the public. The commonsensical Turkish society is not against these public projects; on the contrary, they are well aware of the need for such developments. But they also think that these projects should be centered on humans and the environment.

The trouble is the AK Party-led public revolution over last 12 years in Turkey: The oligarchic bureaucracy and elites' media is deeply resistant to this. Instead of contributing to this important process, the opposition is in a constant anti-political situation to destroy the balance of the government. It contributes to the crisis and chaos rather than encouraging development and change. The government is also exhausted in the face of the opposition that objects to every reform. Therefore, the government takes every objection as an intervention and is focused on overcoming it.

The reform process requires that economic development should not be decelerated. For example, you cannot handle the PKK question if you do not adjust unemployment and inflation. Popular support in the elections is vital for the AK Party, because its only advantage over the oligarchic coalition is its high voting rate gained in the elections. This entails improving the life standards of poor people that support the AK Party on a large scale. The coexistence of a negative and hardcore opposition on the one hand and obligation for development on the other creates an inevitable paradox. It is not possible for the government to get out of this paradox on its own. The opposition does not lend assistance to the government in this particular instance, as it knows that it cannot defeat the government in the election polls and holds on to the possibility of chaos.

All of these are what set the stage for disasters like the Soma accident. As it is not possible to ponder over a plausible plan with a resolved mind under these circumstances, this kind of disaster may be encountered at any moment in the future. It is not so easy to change a century-long understanding of state.

However, this government of 12 years is running out of excuses day-by-day.

Unfortunately, the old mainstream media in Turkey, political parties like the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) - in short "the coalition of the elites" - take every risk for the sake of seizing power. They introduce Turkey to the world in a delusory way as they aim to make up for the lack of domestic support by having Erdoğan suppressed in the world. The casualties in crises like Gezi and Soma are not significant to them but they take advantage of them to change the government. Therefore, they are continuously exploiting the media - 65 percent of which already belongs to them - to provoke the public against Erdoğan.

This situation takes away the government's possibility of making a mistake. The government has to base its developmental understanding on people and the environment, as well as launching a national transformation campaign. To this end, we need to change our mentalities first and realize that transition of sovereignty to the public is not a political struggle only but also a process of establishing values.

I offer heart-felt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in Soma.

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