In the small town of Cumaliköy, right by the Soma mine, there is not much other work than being a miner, I read in an article about last week’s disaster. The work is dangerous, it doesn’t pay much, but you just have no choice if you want to feed your family. And again, like so many times last week, the Roboski massacre came to my mind. There too the people had no choice but to do dangerous work to feed their families: smuggling. And there too the state was responsible for the deaths, and looked the other way.
Maybe that’s why I have come close to literally being sick last week. First the horrific catastrophe, then all the reflexes of the state to cover it up. I have come to know the state and it’s reflexes in detail while investigating the Roboski massacre for my book, and this week I saw them all again, making me nauseous.
‘An accident’, the AKP said after the Roboski massacre. ‘An accident’, the same government said, not even waiting for any investigation and while the dead bodies of miners were still being brought out from the shafts deep down in the earth. And not just any accident: the government wants everybody to believe that such ‘accidents’ are a normal part of life. In Roboski the massacre was, according to the AKP, an unfortunate but inevitable part of the ‘war against terrorism’, in Soma the deaths are just part of mining life – nothing can be done about it. But of course such tragedies are not accidents, they can only be the result of a lack of regulations, a lack of inspections, and of profit before safety.
After the Roboski massacre, the victims and their families were soon portrayed as ‘terrorist helpers’ by the government and by most Turkish media. Now the first Erdogan loyalists start to spread the story that the mining catastrophe was an act of ‘sabotage’ to discredit Erodgan and his government. You wonder how anybody can be so cruel when the wounds are so terribly fresh, or be so cruel at all, but apparently the skill comes easily when you practice enough.
The government is responsible for the 300+ deaths of the Soma disaster, just as it is responsible for the Roboski massacre. In Soma their responsibility lies in enforcing labour laws, signing international treaties to protect workers’ rights and forcing companies to treat their workers well: the government hasn’t done any of this. On the contrary, what counts are profits, and nobody cares about the miners’ lives.
In Roboski, the murder was intentional and those making the decisions knew they were bombing smugglers and not PKK fighters, contrary to what many people still believe. It is not the victims that are to blame, nor the PKK, but the army and the government that is supposed to supervise the army. But what counts is the ‘war against terrorism’, to score against the PKK (either for real or for the public eye), and citizens are considered collateral damage.
In neither Soma nor Roboski has the government acknowledged any responsibility. There is a good chance the government will set up a parliamentary commission to investigate the Soma catastrophe. The AKP will have a majority in the commission, and the result will be known beforehand: the mine killed the people. Like the planes killed the people of Roboski.
Which also means that nobody gets punished. Nobody resigned after the Roboski massacre, nobody was fired, nobody was prosecuted. The air force commander even got a medal less than a year after the massacre. Same goes for Soma – up until now, but no doubt this will not change. More than three hundred people dead, and the bosses of the mine are still walking around, Erdogan met with them on his visit to the town. The energy minister is still in charge and not even considering stepping down, just like Erdogan himself – he’s preparing for the Presidential elections in August.
Nobody takes responsibility, nobody is held responsible.
The state has not left the people of Roboski alone since the massacre. The families of the victims have been prosecuted and taken into custody, they have been tear gassed when they mourned their loved ones, they have had huge fines when all they wanted to do was commemorate. The violation of the rights of the mourners in Soma has started already. Erdogan cursed, shouted and allegedly punched them, his advisor Yerkel brutally kicked a mourner who was held down by gendarmes. I predict there will be a lot more teargas, there will be prosecutions (I fear for the people who were caught on a photo kicking Erdogan’s car when he visited Soma), fines, and physical assaults.
Wake up call
There is a difference too. In Roboski, most of the people didn’t vote for the AKP. They knew the state already, for them it was no surprise that they were treated like scum after their loved ones were brutally killed. It’s different for the people of Soma. The AKP, the party they voted for either willingly or under duress, distributed coal from the same mine they risked their lives in every day, the AKP provided other services, and when you are poor, that counts.
I always wanted AKP voters to open their eyes to reality. But at the same time, I always knew the wakeup call would be very harsh and I wished they would be spared. They were not. My heart bleeds for the people of Soma, like it still bleeds for the people of Roboski.