VIDEO: Erdoğan booed and whistled, opposition leader protested
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the Soma mine facility a day after the deadly blast on May 14. aFP Photo
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has faced a spontaneous protest May 14 in the town of Soma in the western province of Manisa, where at least 282 people died in a coal mine accident.
A group of locals booed and whistled Erdoğan after gathering outside the Soma Municipality building where he was making a press statement. The crowd called on the government to step down over the disaster while security officers tried to disperse the protesters.
During the press conference held only a day after the deadly mine blast, Erdoğan told reporters that work accidents took place in every field of labor including coal mines, so "nobody should be surprised" when accidents happen.
“I guess, as a journalist, you are not very closely following how coal mines in the world operate,” Erdoğan first said in response to a question at a press conference he held as he visited the scene of what it is feared could become Turkey’s most deadly mining disaster. Qatar has natural gas, but no coal mines, Erdoğan said in response to the question addressed by a reporter from Al-Jazeera.
“In late March, this mine was inspected in regards to health and security and was confirmed to have been successful in regards to workers’ health and workplace safety,” he noted in response to the reporter who questioned the responsible address for the disaster.
Apparently prepared for such a question, the prime minister then began reading out some figures from a list which cited death tolls in various coal mine accidents and in different times. The list had a few examples from the 19th century’s United Kingdom, rather than queries over his unorthodox understanding of logic.
“These accidents are things which are always happening. Please, we should not interpret what happens in these coal mines as impossible. These are usual things. There is something called ‘work accidents’ in the literature. This does not only happen at mines, but at other workplaces too,” said Erdoğan said, who earlier noted that around 120 workers were believed to have still been trapped in the mine.
Still, the prime minister also vowed the accident will be investigated thoroughly.
“I want everybody to be sure that this accident is being and will be investigated to the extent of meticulous details. We don’t and will not allow any negligence,” Erdoğan said, pledging that the issue will be clarified via steps that will be satisfactory both for the families of the victims and the public.
Back in May 2010, after 30 miners died in an accident in the Karadon coal mine in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak, Erdoğan had sparked a huge outrage by declaring that such deaths were part of the “fate” of mining people.
“The people of the region are quite used to events like these. This profession has this in its destiny. The workers get into the profession knowing that these kinds of incidents may occur,” he said at the time.
As of yesterday, he warned people not to be taken with extreme groups who may want to exploit this accident in order to harm “the country’s unity and integrity.”
In late April, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Manisa deputy Özgür Özel filed a motion in which he asked for a parliamentary inquiry into deadly accidents in the coal mines in Soma. The motion was rejected by votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who holds the majority at Parliament.
Another reporter recalled the motion and asked Erdoğan to comment on the issue.
In response, Erdoğan argued that only the title of the motion was related to Soma and it actually aimed at diverting the agenda of the Parliament in a bid to hamper the AKP government’s activities.
Main opposition leader also protested
Tensions in Soma continued after Erdoğan left following his press statement. An angry group attacked the district headquarters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), damaging the building, and Erdoğan was even forced to seek refuge in a supermarket by his bodyguards until the situation cooled down. Part of the crowd chanted and called on Erdoğan to step down as he was entering the supermarket.
Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was not allowed to enter the mine, daily Hürriyet reported. Mourners protested Kılıçdaroğlu, too, for the fact that their beloved ones remained in the mine trapped for over a day.