News / Europe

Union Protesters Call for Safer Mines in Turkey

Riot police beat protesters during a demonstration to blame the ruling AK Party government on mining disaster in Izmir, western Turkey, May 15, 2014.
Riot police beat protesters during a demonstration to blame the ruling AK Party government on mining disaster in Izmir, western Turkey, May 15, 2014.
Dorian Jones
Trade unionists in Turkey have been holding nationwide protests in the aftermath of the country’s worst mining disaster.  
Thousands took to the streets Thursday in cities across the country to protest Tuesday’s mining disaster, with clashes breaking out in city of Izmir, close to Soma where the disaster happened.

Police used water cannon to break up the protest. Similar tactics were used against trade unionists demonstrating in Istanbul and Ankara.

In some of Turkey’s provincial cities, demonstrations ended more peacefully.
Soma, TurkeySoma, Turkey
Soma, Turkey
Soma, Turkey
Industrial safety

Trade union leaders claim the mining disaster highlights a wider problem with industrial safety in Turkey. In 2012, the United Nations' International Labor Organization ranked Turkey third worst in the world for worker deaths.

Thursday’s protests came as the first victims of Tuesday’s mining disaster were buried. Rescue efforts are still continuing, but officials warn there is little hope of finding alive any of the remaining 100 or more miners still trapped underground.

Meanwhile, there is outrage after newspapers printed a picture of an aide to the prime minister kicking a man protesting the mine disaster who was being held on the ground by police.

The incident happened in Soma on Wednesday, during a visit by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is already under fire for appearing to be indifferent to Tuesday's coal mine blast in Soma that killed at least 282 people.

The prime minister had called mining accidents "ordinary things." He added, though, that the entire country is in pain and promised a thorough investigation.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Soma Thursday and vowed to do whatever is necessary to prevent future mining disasters.
Major Mining Accidents in the Past Five Years

March 3013 - Landslide buries 83 miners in Central Tibet
August 2010 - At least 60 miners die when a gold mine shaft collapses in a region controled by armed rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo
March 2011 - Dozens are killed after a methane explosion at a coal mine near Quetta, Pakistan
November 2010 - Twenty nine coal miners trapped for five days after an explosion die in a second blast caused by methane gas in New Zealand
October 2010 - Thirty three miners are rescued after being trapped for more than two months follwoing a cave-in at a gold and copper mine in northern Chile
April 2010 - An explosion at a coal mine in West Virginia kills 29 U.S. miners
The government has been accused of rejecting a recent proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into mine accidents in the area where Tuesday's disaster took place, although officials say the Soma mine was subject to regular inspections, most recently in March.

The deputy leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, Faruk Logoglu, claims the government was made aware of the dangers at the Soma mine.

"We specifically asked for a parliamentary investigation into this particular mine that is the scene of this huge accident," said Logoglu. "But when we raised the issue in the parliament, unfortunately we didn’t get the response we hoped to get."

Election fallout

Observers warn if protests and anger over the disaster continue to grow, they could harm Erdogan's prospects in August's presidential election, which he is widely expected to contest.
  • A police water cannon is used against anti-government protesters in Soma, Turkey, May 16, 2014.
  • Hundreds of protesters took part in a march against the government. Some protesters chanted slogans near a monument for the town's miners, Soma, May 16, 2014.

  • A police water cannon is used against anti-government protesters in Soma, May 16, 2014.
  • Muslims pray in Soma, May 16, 2014.
  • People mourn at the grave of a miner after a burial service, in Soma, May 15, 2014.
  • Miners and members of rescue services wait outside a coal mine in Soma, May 15, 2014.
  • People prepare graves for the coal mine disaster victims in Soma, May 15, 2014.
  • Members of the rescue team sit outside the coal mine in Soma, May 15, 2014.
  • Relatives of the miners wait near the coal mine where disaster struck, Soma, May 15, 2014.
  • A young man waits outside the coal mine in Soma, May 15, 2014.
  • A protester is kicked by Yusuf Yerkel, advisor to Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, as Special Forces police officers detain him during a protest against Mr. Erdogan's visit to Soma, May 14, 2014.

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Comment Sorting
by: Gokmen from: İstanbul
May 16, 2014 4:23 AM
In here, whenever people take streets and raise their voices to protest their governments in a democratic way, police fire tear gas and use water cannons on people as if they are criminals.
Even an aide to the president can kick a protestor without getting neither punishmet nor denouncement from the authorities.
Once I joined protests in İstanbul when an unarmed 15 year-old boy died since he got hit from his head with a cannister of tear gas fired by police in June Protests. Also other unarmed civilians died in protests against the government because of police using excessive force.
Instead of putting polices, who killed unarmed civilians, in prison and sacking them, they have been protected by the authorities. Even the president said that the "police made history", referring police's oppression on the protestors in June (Taksim Gezi Park).
The president should know that democrasy is not only composed of ballot boxes. Beside the ballot boxes, there should be freedom of expression, taking to the streets without oppression of the government or police, free press (many innocent journalists have still been in prisons), etc.

by: ann from: ohio
May 15, 2014 1:17 PM
it's sad to make excuses about this happens all the time these men risk their lives everyday in these dark ass mines not to mention getting BLACK LUNGS which my father died from so please take every precaution necessary to make it safe for these workers.It's bad enough so much is being extracted from our earth that is already is getting so unstable.

by: Daniel from: Australia
May 15, 2014 12:49 PM
Here in Australia mining is big business.
It is a major part off our economy but even one death at a mine is considered anything but ordinary. If even one person dies the news goes out across the country, investigations are held and changes are made to safety rules and regulations. Any politician who refered to a mining death as an ordinary thing would lose their job immediately.
In Response

by: blnt
May 16, 2014 2:32 AM
Yes yolu all right Daniel...

by: Milva Latvia from: Ankara
May 15, 2014 11:28 AM
This is the world, THE NEW WORLD ORDER, we live in............your family members get killed in an unsafe mine, you go to protest and are tear-gassed and water cannoned by the AGENDA 21 POLICE. EVERYONE, I REPEAT, EVERYONE MUST DO THEIR HOMEWORK ON HOW AGENDA 21 IS ENSLAVING THE PLANET. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!
In Response

by: Milton Briar from: USA
May 15, 2014 12:19 PM
VERY TRUE!! And signed into "soft law" by that SCUMBAG, Bush who was always calling for a New World Order. That Scummer, Clinton, signed it too, a year later. AGENDA 21, RIO DE JANERIO, BRAZIL 1992. I'M AWAKE.

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