Israel,  Turkey

Erdogan vs. “Israeli sperm”

Reacting to justified public outrage over the mine disaster in western Turkey which killed at least 282 miners, the Turkish government seems to be in the process of self-destructing.

Taner Kurucan, the man who was punched several times by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday amid protests in Soma has said that he expects an apology from the prime minister and further alleged that prior to the incident, Erdoğan insulted him by calling him “Israeli sperm.”
Speaking to Kanal D TV station, Kurucan — who is also a miner — said that he was not among those who protested against Erdoğan’s visit by chanting slogans and using words such as “murderer” and “thief.”

Kurucan said that he was near the large crowd angrily protesting the recent mining disaster. “I was shopping in a grocery store, not protesting him [Erdoğan], when all of sudden, he punched me. I am expecting an apology from the prime minister.”

Stressing that he has no plan to file charges against the prime minister, Kurucan said that Erdoğan’s bodyguards beat him severely, showing bruises on his neck and arm.

I’m not sure what makes “Israeli sperm” an insult; I’ll leave that to others to explain. And in fact the Magen David Adom offered to send some of the human results of Israeli sperm to help with rescue efforts at the mine and medical needs of survivors.

But it appears Erdogan’s government has decided to react to the terrible tragedy by pissing off as many Turks as possible.

A Turkish newspaper reported that Erdogan punched or slapped a girl after she accused him of killing her father.

And photos of Erdogan’s adviser Yusuf Yerkel kicking a protester held down by police were not exactly a PR triumph for the government either.

Yerkel was a PhD student at SOAS University in London before returning to Turkey to work for Erdogan. I hope he didn’t learn such techniques for dealing with dissent there.

The Washington Post reports:

The tragedy in Soma is the worst mining disaster in Turkish history. Erdogan’s response to it is facing incredible scrutiny, and he doesn’t appear to be meeting the challenge: Turkish media have been picking apart a speech he delivered Wednesday, in which Erdogan said mine disasters were “usual things” and made comparisons to mining disasters that occurred years, even centuries, ago in other countries.

And Erdogan’s problems go beyond their (at best) tone-deaf response. The Soma coal mine was privatized in 2005 with support from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and is run by a private company named Soma Komur Isletmeleri that had sought to bring down costs. Although the government says the mine had passed all its recent safety inspections, the Reuters news agency reports that the AKP was able to block opposition calls for an investigation into mining accidents in Soma just last month.

Update: The arrogance of the government and the mine operator is apparently boundless.

The government and the operator of the mine in which about 300 workers died this week both denied on Friday claims of negligence in the accident in a manner which fell short of accusing the workers for the accident.

“There are absolutely no loopholes in the country’s mining safety regulations,” Justice and Development Party (AK Party) spokesman Hüseyin Çelik said on Friday, shortly after the owner of Soma Holding, which operates the mine, told reporters he is not legally obliged to provide an emergency shelter inside the mines.

Turkey, along with Afghanistan and Pakistan, is one of the only three countries in the world where a shelter is not legally required.

“This mine has been thoroughly inspected 11 times since 2009,” said Çelik, who claimed it is time to “draw lessons” from the disaster and “rectify our mistakes,” not “to look for a scapegoat.”

Soma Holding Chairman Alp Gürkan also denied any negligence. After admitting that there were no emergency shelters inside the mine at the time of the disaster, Gürkan told journalists as mine owner he is not legally obliged to provide shelters.

We can’t know for sure if emergency shelters would have saved lives, but it’s worth recalling that such a shelter enabled 33 Chilean miners to survive for more than two months in 2010 after a roof collapsed.

Further update:
Erdogan tells a protester: “Don’t behave rudely. What is done is done [in the Soma mine]. It’s God’s providence. If you boo the prime minister of this country, you get slapped.”

And lawyers arriving in Soma to aid the families of victims are being arrested.

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