NY Earthquake Solidarity: “We will not forget! We will not forgive!”

By Devin B., Red Phoenix correspondent, New York.

The following was a speech given by members of New York Earthquake Solidarity at the Feb. 19th vigil for victims of the Feb. 6th earthquake that has devastated Turkey and Syria. To join their organizing efforts, contact them on Twitter or Instagram. If you wish to donate to the rescue and recovery work in Turkey and Syria, NYES asks you to consider sending funds to @ResearchInstituteOnTurkey-NY on Venmo.

“Dear friends, comrades, welcome.

Thank you for coming and sharing our grief. We would like to hold this vigil for earthquake victims quietly. It is a space to reflect our sentiments. While earthquakes have natural causes, we are aware its consequences are political and socioeconomic.

We at NY Earthquake Solidarity are students, workers, and artists from Turkey living in New York. In response to the deadly earthquakes in Turkey and the urgent humanitarian aid needed in the region, we have come together to create this solidarity network to raise funds and mobilize our allies to help victims of the earthquake in Turkey, Kurdistan, and Syria. As New York Earthquake Solidarity we will be sharing campaigns, events, and updates from our social media accounts.

Here are our initial questions to the Turkish Government about their earthquake response.

Why was earthquake response so slow?

Why was there no immediate response by the national disaster management authority, AFAD, in the first 48 hours? Why was AFAD short staffed and unprepared to quickly act?

Why was Turkey not prepared?

Turkey is an earthquake hot spot with a long history of destructive earthquakes. Why were most buildings and infrastructure not resilient and up to the seismic design code? Why was there no comprehensive disaster management plan?

Why was social media blocked?

Why were the common social media platforms blocked during the most critical hours of the rescue operations while people under the rubble were sharing their locations? Why was the censorship of critical voices more urgent than saving lives?

Why was the only comprehensive emergency response to declare a State of Emergency?

Why was there a need for a state of emergency where the citizens’ right to file legal complaints and lawsuits are suspended for 3 months? Why are citizens’ demands for justice, transparency, and accountability feared and censored?

Why was racism fueled?

Why were the people of the region who consist of ethnic minorities and Syrian refugees portrayed as looters? Why were the images of looting circulated to boost hatred and justify a state of emergency despite the need for an environment of solidarity? Is it true that certain areas with minority ethnic populations were neglected in rescue and relief efforts?

Why was education first to sacrifice?

Why was the in-person education in universities suspended for the rest of the school year while continuity of educational services is usually a top priority in global disaster management? Were other options besides student dorms considered to house the affected populations? Did the fear of students organizing at universities against the government in the eve of national elections play a role in the decision?

What’s next?

Will those responsible for poor planning, design, and construction be held accountable? Given that Turkey’s other regions — including Istanbul, where one fifth of the country’s population lives — are also prone to earthquakes, what is the government doing to prevent a similar or even worse scenario in the future? How is the government planning to incorporate citizens’ voices in an environment of fear, mistrust, and censorship?

With solidarity.”

Categories: International, Kurdistan, Syria, Turkey

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