A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Will Erdoğan Pay a Political Price for Tone-Deaf "Accidents Happen" Remarks on Soma?

The horrific coal mine disaster at Soma in Turkey was not caused by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But his response to it (essentially "accidents will happen"and then citing 19th century examples in Victorian England and America), seemed to provoke a firestorm of criticism, and booing of the PM on his visit to Soma. Demonstrations have now spread throughout Turkey. At a time when the country is shocked and morning, Erdoğan's words seem completely off-key:
“I went back in British history. Some 204 people died there after a mine collapsed in 1838. In 1866, 361 miners died in Britain. In an explosion in 1894, 290 people died there,” Erdoğan said on a visit to the grieving town of Soma.

“Take America with all of its technology and everything ... In 1907, 361 [miners died there],” he added. “These are usual things.”
1838? 1866? 1894? Things were bad in Dickensian workhouses too, but they aren't usually used to defend contemporary working conditions. Yes, I know Hurriyet Daily News  is an opposition newspaper, but no one is denying he said it.

Adding insult to injury, this photo is said to show an aide or bodyguard of the Prime Minister kicking a protesting relative of a dead or missing miner:

Lending credibility to the tale is another photo showing the same man wearing apparently the same tie, walking with Erdoğan.   Social media are saying he's a senior aide. UPDATE: He's Yusuf Yerkel, a Deputy Chief of Staff in the PM's office.

Kicking a mourner.

I don't claim to be an expert on Turkish politics, but if Erdoğan encounters obstacles on his route to becoming President in a more powerful Presidential system,  this might be the reason. Here's video of the unusual Soma booing and attacks on his car in Soma today. (Yes, it's from Russia Today, but it's in English.)


No comments: