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.
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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid