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‘2023 great Anatolian earthquake…’ or ‘the urban transformation quake’

From ’17 August 1999′ to ‘2023 great Anatolian earthquake…’ or ‘the urban transformation quake’1


The Article & images: Özcan Yaman ┃published by Evrensel Bulletin  ┃10 February 2023 04:12

Turkey earthquake

credit: Özcan Yaman



Great Anatolian Earthquake

On the 3rd day of the Great Anatolian earthquake, while I was fixated on the screens, my memory took me years back to the earthquake of 17 August 1999 when I witnessed the disastrous event as a journalist. And then, to the commemorations held every August 17th and my writings on the subject, exhibitions we held as Redfoto. I was deeply grieved while the images of the collapsed cities I’ve recently visited flashed in front of my eyes: Adana, Mersin, Hatay, Gaziantep, Afşin, Elbistan, Urfa, Diyarbakır, Konya, Adıyaman…

Massacres and natural disasters haunt us. As we experience those disasters in one way or another throughout our lifetime, I can’t help but think, is this the life we deserve? We will continue to write and campaign to prevent further disasters.




credit: Özcan Yaman

Years have passed since the 17 August 1999 earthquake. Those born in 1999 are adults today. This vast earthquake we experienced made it necessary for us to take lessons from the past once again and share our experiences.

After the 17 August 1999 earthquake, the “Emek Tent City”, established with field tents in Kocaeli Derince with the help of the Labour Party (Emeğin Partisi) aid campaigns, is still remembered for its financial and moral support to the earthquake victims.

In those years, I lived in that tent city. It served earthquake victims for months, providing them with many facilities and support services, from toilet cabins to barbers, health cabins to kitchen that cooks hot meals, and psychological support units to children’s playgrounds and living areas. Volunteers, including doctors, barbers and artists, worked for days.

The earthquake survivors, who were the subjects of the organisation, had a say in decisions. Children who lost their homes and families also lived their childhood as much as possible in kindergarten. Even circumcision feasts were held. It was essential to heal their pain a little, to help them hold on to life.

Many intellectual artists, especially Fadime Ana, Sennur Sezer and Adnan Özyalçıner, had come to Emek Tent City to support people who were left homeless and clinging to their pain.

As expected, the emergence of the power of solidarity would disturb some. Commander Hüseyin Kıvrıkoğlu, who was the Chief of Staff back in the day, drew a reaction for his words targeting the “Derince Emek Tent City”. He said: “They established tent cities in Derince and Izmit. Emek Tent City. Go, see the misery…”

The earthquake survivors said those words were game moves to close the tent city, and added, “Let them come and see if there is misery here or a good organisation.” It is not in vain that the “Emek Tent City” comes to mind when I see what is happening today. The knowledge and experience of the democratic forces show how to mobilise against such disasters.

Years passed. “Earthquake taxes” to protect from earthquakes, the concrete piles they have built for “urban transformation”, and the interests of a handful of rich people do not prevent disasters. It seems that the state is still the same.



Turkey earthquake

credit: Özcan Yaman

I looked through the articles I wrote about the 17 August earthquake. If I publish them as they are, they look like they were written these days. Let me continue by quoting from one of those articles.

The earthquake fact is almost forgotten. Photos and videos have been transformed into nostalgic images; they became inured as if they were images from the Iraq war. Construction companies turned those images into materials for their advertisements: “Give us thousands or even a million dollars, and live in guaranteed earthquake-proof buildings!”

It is necessary to ask, what does a state do? What do municipalities do? If you are in the 20 percentile and have a high income, you can claim that you live in a democratic, secular and social state of law. It should not be forgotten that there is neither right nor law where there is injustice. Therefore, there is no social state at all. What has been done about the earthquake on August 17, other than annual commemorations? Dear sister Sennur (Sezer) said in an article in Evrensel that monuments of justice should be erected in this country. First of all, in front of the house of parliament.

Yes, this country needs monuments of justice. With writing that reads “Do not forget August 17” to be placed in front of all state and municipal buildings, especially the parliament. It is time to erect monuments of justice to embarrass those who allow construction in risky areas, who go out for illegal construction hunting every morning, who use the earthquake as a tool to expel the poor from the cities and build financial and art centres, and those who collect taxes from the people and return very little if any.



Great Anatolian Earthquake

While we are talking about monuments of justice, they are erecting rentier monuments and mosques. While the rentier causes the actual earthquake, the clock works against the poor.

The last “great Anatolian earthquake” we experienced showed that the state failed again in class. Instead of declaring an earthquake mobilisation, the state declares OHAL (state of emergency).

As Emak Partisi (Labour Party) underlined in its call, “…OHAL means banning strikes and restricting freedom of speech, press and expression. A ban on TV and radio broadcasts constrains the public’s right to receive information. A state of emergency means the cessation of public solidarity in disaster areas where the state cannot reach. This decision also means suppressing the poor’s demands for work, food and freedom.

The state of emergency should be withdrawn. People need not a state of emergency but solidarity and emergency aid. Where there are negligence and self-interest policies, which cost the lives of thousands of people and victimised hundreds of thousands, it is unacceptable to declare a state of emergency against the public instead of bringing responsible officials and contractors to justice.

I am writing this article on the 3rd day of the earthquake. And people still need help.



Turkey earthquake

credit: Özcan Yaman


Grand tremblement de terre d’Anatolie

Photographer and activist Mustafa Ertekin reminds nature and landscape photographers of their responsibilities and says:

“Dear photographer friends, regional photography associations, Gafsad, Gifsad, Kafsad, Afad, Mfd, Adıyaman Fotoğraf Yolcuları, Mafsad, ArkaPlan. As Binfot, we will be in Maraş and the surrounding areas. One of the main responsibilities of photography associations in this disaster is to create a record with photos and videos and contribute to awareness. The region is wide; we invite every association to the field….”



Let me conclude with a quote from Gazete Duvar columnist and poet Tevfik Taş:

“In the final analysis, everything is about social class. The consequences of the earthquake are class-based. Femicides are class-based. The attitude of public enemies is class-based. The love of self-interest is also class-based. We will insistently repeat our truths that are revolutionary, not rote. Persistently!”




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