One year after the devastating earthquake in Turkey and northern Syria, people remembered the tens of thousands of dead on Tuesday. In the hardest-hit southeastern Turkish province of Hatay, residents remembered the victims at 4:17 a.m. (local time) – just as the first serious earthquake shook the region a year ago. In the city of Antakya, people chanted in unison, “Does anyone hear our voices?” – rescuers also shouted the same sentence a year ago when they searched for buried people for days. Today he represents the fact that many survivors in the region feel ignored and abandoned to their fate. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected on Tuesday in Kahramanmaras province, which was also hit by the quake.
On February 6th, an earthquake of magnitude 7.7 hit southeastern Turkey early in the morning, and another quake of magnitude 7.6 followed in the afternoon of the same day. According to government figures, more than 53,000 people died in Turkey alone. Exact information on the victims from neighboring Syria, which is torn by civil war, is difficult to determine. According to unconfirmed information, more than 6,000 people may have died there. In Antakya, people lit candles on the ruins of destroyed buildings in memory of those killed there and threw red carnations into the city's river. People from all over the country traveled to the region for the anniversary.
President Erdoğan had promised to push ahead with rapid reconstruction in the region. But the local people are still suffering greatly from the consequences of the quake. They complain about a lack of help such as food or clothing donations. In a container village in Karacay, residents say they are dependent on support from international aid organizations. People from the small town of Kirikhan report that the water supply also breaks off again and again. The government was repeatedly booed at the commemoration ceremony in Antakya. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca from the ruling AK Party gave his speech accompanied by loud whistles. Provincial mayor Lütfü Savas from the CHP – the largest opposition party at the state level – was also called upon to resign in a chorus. In some cases, those responsible for the government were described as “murderers” who should be held accountable.
According to authorities, almost 700,000 people are housed in containers in Turkey. Although the government officially states that tent cities have been dismantled, an unknown number of people still live in tents. According to Save the Children, one in three children who became homeless in the earthquake region in Turkey still lives in emergency accommodation today. The children's rights organization also points out that many children in both Turkey and Syria struggle with fears and psychological problems.
Because of the widespread destruction, many people in the region have become unemployed and therefore lack money for even the most essential things. At the same time, the local construction sector is booming and is attracting large numbers of workers from all over the country to the region. Erdoğan traveled to the region at the weekend and publicly inaugurated new buildings. He was expected in the region again for the anniversary. The president and his government came under heavy criticism after the quake; they were accused, among other things, of errors in crisis management. The focus also came on so-called black buildings that were built illegally and then later legalized by the government. This hardly affected Erdogan's popularity; he was re-elected as president in May last year after 20 years in power. Local elections are coming up at the end of March.