“It is clear that so much more could and should be done to help people impacted by the earthquake.”
During recess Lloyd Russell Moyle MP and Kate Osborne MP were part of a group of Labour MPs Center for Turkish Studies (CEFTUS) delegation to look at the current political situation ahead of the elections and to visit Kahramanmaraş, one of the areas hit hardest by the recent earthquake.
They report-back from the delegation below:
The devastation we witnessed and personal stories were heartbreaking, we met with hundreds of people, still living in tents and their stories all had one thing in common – they were left alone for 3/4/5 days before they received any support or help. Many were too frightened to speak out for fear of being targeted by police for highlighting their desperation, the fear being very real people we had spoken to had been arrested, lost their jobs and had family members targeted when they spoke out.
One woman we spoke to told us how the impact on her family is getting worse by the day, their rented home is destroyed, there is no hope of them living inside anytime soon, she lost her husband and son in the earthquake and the day before we spoke, her son in law committed suicide as he could not cope with the situation any longer. Her daughter was inconsolable inside the tent, a tent she told us that holds six of them every night. Their first four nights they spent in a car that they found with unlocked doors.
Another man was sitting at the side of a building that had been destroyed – 1200 people had been killed in that tower block alone – including his wife and three children. He was holding vigil there for them and said he had nothing else to do, nowhere to go and no hope.
It is clear that so much more could and should be done to help people impacted by the earthquake. Talking to people about their hopes for the elections almost all said whoever wins needs to take action to help the people stranded – but none had confidence in Erdogans promises to rebuild homes in one year – pointing out that a lax attitude to building regs made the impact of the earthquake worse – and those standards are not being improved – if anything rushing to get them all up would make things worse.
We heard stories of inspectors asking people to move back into their homes – after not looking inside to see if it was structurally safe and children desperate to get back to school being told it wont start until end of June at the earliest – one young girl of eight had broken her collarbone and wrist tripping over tent wires – but the state hospitals had all collapsed and they didn’t have enough money to go to the one private hospital that remained open. Every MP has similar but different stories from our interactions – the one promise we made to them to highlight their stories and let people know how much they are still suffering.
In complete contrast, on meeting the President’s Director of communications he told us how people saying there is no water and no aid are spreading disinformation – and gave us all a book on how President Erdogan has dealt with the crisis – the book contained pictures of the President shirt rolled up helping out. We were told the death toll is in the region of 50/60,000 a shocking figure – but again people on the ground and the opposition have the death toll of at least double that.
We met with all of the opposition parties in coalition as well as AKP and those not in the coalition including Sadaat, Deva, CHP, İyi Parti, TDP, HDP, Gelecek as well as trade unions, human rights organisations, NGO’s and stakeholders.
The vast majority of people we met were confident (to varying degrees) that the coalition would win the Presidential elections – the parliamentary elections were harder to call with many not wanting to commit to predictions.
Whoever wins the elections on May the 14th the world will be watching to see how they treat their most vulnerable – and as a delegation we will be writing to the Prime Minister, LOTO, Foreign Secretaries and Ambassadors to see what more we can do to put pressure on the current government to provide help.