Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday directed harsh condemnation of various groups that have criticized the way the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) handled a disastrous accident at a coal mine in Manisa's Soma district last week that killed 301 workers and left scores of others injured.
The prime minister's primary target of criticism was journalists. Referring to Hürriyet daily columnist Yılmaz Özdil, Erdoğan called him a “bogus man” and a “reptile." Özdil was the target of the prime minister's criticism for saying the miners at the mine deserved to die as they were supporters of the AK Party.
“A bogus man comes and says the miners deserved to die as they participated in our [AK Party election] rally in Manisa. He also said he would not bow to anyone and that he would only fall to his knees when dancing the [traditional] zeybek [dance]. Why does he not say he falls to his knees in front of his boss? Why does he not say he falls to his knees in front of money? A reptile cannot stand on its [back] feet and it cannot fall to its knees,” the angry prime minister told his AK Party deputies while delivering his weekly parliamentary group speech.
Erdoğan's harsh remarks followed statements by Özdil, who made remarks on a TV program that lend themselves to being interpreted as 'the dead miners got what they deserved since they were AK Party supporters." Özdil's remarks also implied that Erdoğan's Turkey might be faced, at this rate, with other disasters in the future.
Speaking on a program on Halk TV on May 17, Özdil said: “There was a discussion in Parliament regarding miners in Soma attending AK Party rallies during working hours. Then Labor and Social Security Minister Faruk Çelik made a comment saying, 'What's wrong with this, is the owner of this mine prohibited from supporting a political party?' Therefore I agree with the prime minister. Whatever happened is quite normal, you could even say deserved. Turkey has gotten what it deserves with Tayyip Erdoğan. If you ask me, there are even bigger disasters in Turkey's future.”
Journalist Yazgülü Aldoğan, who writes for the Posta daily, also received her share of criticism from the prime minister for writing “Soma miners are neither martyrs nor war veterans; they died in vain” in one of her columns. “She [Aldoğan] is very vile. She crushed her honor and humanity under her feet,” Erdoğan stated.
After the mine disaster in Soma -- the worst of its kind in Turkey's history -- there has been strong criticism of the AK Party government for its failure to carry out proper inspections in the mine.
In one of his earlier speeches, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız had referred to Soma Holding, which operates the mine in Soma, claiming that the company sets an example for many companies in terms of workplace safety.
In addition, there have been persistent calls for government officials, including Prime Minister Erdoğan and ministers Yıldız and Çelik, to resign. Eight people were arrested on Monday in relation to the catastrophic mining accident in Soma, but not a single politician has yet resigned or faced an investigation over the disaster.
Also on Monday, Prime Minister Erdoğan targeted the faith-based Hizmet movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, over a female Twitter user -- without citing her name -- who wrote on May 14 that she had prayed to God that those who voted for the AK Party in the March 30 local elections would taste the grief of losing their children.
“They [Hizmet members] view the gang leader in Pennsylvania [referring to Gülen] as the Mahdi [the prophesied redeemer of Islam who will rule for a number of years before the Day of Judgment]. Remember that he [Gülen] said he prays God will bring fire to our homes. And that small-minded and miserable woman [referring to the Twitter user] thinks the curse has reached the Soma miners and has come true. Shame on her!” Erdoğan said.
Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Erdoğan, who has been at odds with the Hizmet movement since Dec. 17, 2013, when a major graft operation became public, claims the operation was orchestrated by the movement with a motive to overthrow his AK Party government. He has however not provided any evidence to prove his claim.
Gülen has denied Erdoğan's claims. In a video recording uploaded online in late December, Gülen said, “Those who don't see the thief but go after those trying to catch the thief, who don't see the murder but try to defame others by accusing innocent people -- let God bring fire to their houses, ruin their homes, break their unities.”
The prime minister also rejected claims that his government had failed to properly handle the Soma disaster. He said he held a meeting with Energy and Natural Resources Minister Yıldız shortly after the tragic accident occurred and then ordered the minister to travel to Soma.
“He [Yıldız] picked his team and traveled to Soma immediately. I thank him for his efforts to coordinate the [search and rescue] efforts in Soma,” he stated. He also said the search and rescue efforts in the Soma mine lasted four days.
“A total of 301 workers lost their lives. Four hundred thirty-six workers were saved from the mine. We have launched efforts to provide moral and material support to the families of the miners. I have given an order to recognize the victims as martyrs,” Erdoğan said, adding that Cabinet will discuss the order on Wednesday.
Erdoğan also pledged not to allow anyone responsible for the mine disaster to go unpunished, promising better supervision of mines in Turkey. "God willing, everyone will draw the necessary lessons from this disaster," Erdoğan said, adding, "We are more determined than ever to increase supervision and to take the necessary steps."
"No one will be able to cover up this painful incident. The necessary criminal and administrative investigations will be carried out, and we will be strictly monitoring them,” he also said.
In addition, Erdoğan said the majority of the 77 million citizens of Turkey have joined together in feeling the pain of the Soma miners and their families, also thanking everyone who he said did not consider the mine disaster a “tool for political abuse.”
Also on Tuesday, Turkey Journalists' Federation (TGF) Chairman Atilla Sertel said the prime minister was once again targeting journalists in the aftermath of the deadly mine accident in Soma. According to Sertel, the prime minister was working to change people's perception of what is actually going on in the country and was conducting a “lynching campaign” against journalists to this end.
“The prime minister should use his energy to illuminate the Soma incident instead of attacking journalists. The prime minister should face the realities, not journalists,” he noted.
Erdoğan attacks critics of gov't handling of Soma disaster
Prime Minister Erdoğan speaks at his party’s parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Mustafa Kirazlı)
May 20, 2014, Tuesday/ 19:04:32/ TODAY'S ZAMAN / ANKARA