News / Europe

Earthquake Adds Even More Pressure to Relations Between Turks, Kurds

A soldier helps a girl to cross a street after an earthquake in Ercis, Turkey October 24, 2011.
A soldier helps a girl to cross a street after an earthquake in Ercis, Turkey October 24, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +
Dorian Jones

Sunday's powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast has put the spotlight on relations between Turks and Kurds.

Tragedy and grief

The quake happened a few days after the killing of 24 Turkish soldiers by the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK. The response to the quake, which killed more than 500 people, injured at least 1,600 and left thousands homeless, has seen both a humanitarian outpouring of support but also ugly nationalism by some Turks toward the survivors.

Turkish soldiers carrying the coffins of soldiers who were killed in an attack by members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) during funerals in Van, August 18, 2011.
Turkish soldiers carrying the coffins of soldiers who were killed in an attack by members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) during funerals in Van, August 18, 2011.

At the same time the predominantly Kurdish region around the city of Van was being devastated by an earthquake, Turks were demonstrating across the country against the recent killing of 24 Turkish soldiers by the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in an outpouring of grief and fury.

Muge Anil controversy

But even as the magnitude of the disaster became clear, with rescue workers battling to save those trapped and tens of thousands of people left destitute, well-known television presenter Muge Anil provoked a storm of controversy by questioning why Turks should help Kurds who are in desperate need in the earthquake area.

She said people should know their place. She said first the Kurds throw stones at Turkish police and kill Turkish soldiers, but when they are in trouble, she said they call the Turkish army and police for help.

After a storm of protests, Anil was forced to apologize. But political columnist Asla Aydintasba, of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet, says Anil's mistake was to say on televison what many Turks are feeling.

"Coming right after the PKK attack here, when 24 people died, there is a certain amount [of] racism, in some quarters, we see this in social media," said Aydintasba. "People saying that we are not going to grieve for the earthquake because the people who died did not grieve for the loss of [the] lives of Turkish soldiers. Getting into a cab and start talking to the cab driver, start talking to random people, this resentment towards Kurds does exist. It does signal a deep current underneath which [we] need to really focus on."

Help vs. hate

But other Turks have reached out to the quake-stricken area. On Wednesday, TV stations ran a nationwide appeal called "One Heart," raising millions of euros. Calls for warm clothing also have been met with a strong response. But organizers are reporting that they are finding obscene notes condemning Kurds in the pockets of some of the donated clothes. It is such a problem that all items are being searched.

Concern about such ethnic hatred prompted Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to angrily condemn it.

He said each word, each phrase, each expression towards discrimination is inhuman, unconscionable. He said he is seeing all this as sickening and that it is enough.

Ethnic polarization

The prime minister should be concerned, according to retired Brigadier General Haldun Solmazturk, who spent much of his career fighting the PKK. He says the past few months have seen an upsurge in fighting, claiming the lives of more than 50 Turkish soldiers. He says this is fueling a deepening and worrying ethnic polarization.

Demonstrators shout slogans and hold Turkey's national flag during a protest against the latest attacks by Kurdish rebels against the Turkish military in Istanbul, Turkey, October 19, 2011.
Demonstrators shout slogans and hold Turkey's national flag during a protest against the latest attacks by Kurdish rebels against the Turkish military in Istanbul, Turkey, October 19, 2011.

"There has been a rapidly growing reaction to the events in southeastern Turkey, especially these ambushes," he said. "And people are looking for [an] answer, which is not being answered - neither by the politicians and bureaucrats. So the tension is just building up, and this reaction is directed to the Kurdish people. At some stage, this could ignite an actual attack. I am afraid that there is potentially that once sparked, [it] could spread throughout Turkey."

Observers say the Van area earthquake is now taking on an increasingly symbolic importance - will such a tragedy unite Turkey or further polarize it?

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid