We did not forget the Soma mining disaster

We did not forget the Soma mining disaster

It has been two years since the tragedy in Soma, in which 301 miners died underground after a fire erupted. 

The Soma mining disaster led to the highest loss of lives in an industrial accident in Turkey’s history. Some 301 families were deprived of the sources of their living and a total 432 children lost their father. 

Curious about what the newspapers would write on the second anniversary of the tragedy, I scanned the media. 

Part of the media covered the issue. Their reporting ranged from the commemoration ceremonies, to how the families are now trying to make a living, as well as the social responsibility projects undertaken to support families in Soma. But I did not come across any news about Soma’s second anniversary in the pro-government media.

It is as if a tragedy that ended in the painful death of 301 miners did note even happen.

What’s more, we have also learned from the news that the head of a provincial branch of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has given a petition to a provincial governor to stop holding commemoration ceremonies. He claims that his life is in danger.

Thank God we have not yet reached the stage where all commemorations are banned. A commemoration ceremony was indeed organized with the participation of trade unions like the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions (DİSK), the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions, NGOs like the Turkish Medical Association (TTB), and parliamentarians from the main opposition Republican’s People Party (CHP).

But don’t you think people wonder about whether participating in a commemoration ceremony is only the job of opposition deputies? Is standing with those who survived - trying to heal the wounds of a tragedy resulting from the fact that gasmasks in the mine were old and ineffective and there were no “life rooms” against the accident - not the responsibility of all who take the oath at parliament?

The tragedy of Soma is only continuing.

A big majority of the 2,831 workers fired from the mine where the accident took place are now unemployed and have not received their compensation, despite the fact that two years have passed.

According to trade unions, there are today 4,000 unemployed miners in Soma.

Mining companies do not want to hire miners who have demonstrated for their dead colleagues in front of Turkey’s Coal Management institution. But thousands from Soma have applied after an announcement from another city, Zonguldak, that a mine is hiring 115 miners. That shows the horrible unemployment situation in the town.

Meanwhile, the legal case has not ended, despite the fact that two years have passed. Losing their hope in justice, Soma locals say they will apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) if necessary.

One piece of good news is that the Ministry of Labor and Social Security decreed last March that a “life line” be constructed for all miners to find their way during an accident. But this will only be implemented in 2017.

That is impossible to understand. In a country where 1,730 workers lost their lives in 2015, such an important measure needs to be put into force immediately.