New law discriminates against victims of mining accidents in Turkey

New law discriminates against victims of mining accidents in Turkey

Mustafa Bozacıoğlu, one of the survivors of a major mining accident in 1992, which left 263 miners dead, remembered that sad day in 2015 with some hard-hitting words.

“First, I saw some blue and green coal dust, then suddenly a fireball followed by an explosion. I felt I was burning. We could only pray. I heard my friends’ voices. I tried to comfort them. ‘Don’t worry, it is just the firedamp that exploded,’ I said. My helmet already melted. We crawled and got to the main road, passing by our dead friends. You can’t do anything to anyone at such a moment. I hope we will never go through such pain,” he said.

The accident, which happened in the Kozlu district of the northern province of Zonguldak, was so horrific that the bodies of the last two miners were only reached in 1997, five years after the incident.

It has been 26 years since the accident. Have we already forgotten about it?

It depends on how you define “forgetting.” Some consider remembering those who lost their lives in such accidents to be the same as offering them gifts. Indeed, survivors of the Kozlu accident were given a figurine of a miner in the day of remembrance in 2015, when Bozacıoğlu gave his speech.

However, if we look at an article in an omnibus bill presented to parliament recently, a problem emerges. Finance Minister Naci Ağbal last week announced the article concerning the relatives of miners who died in mining accidents.

“Either the spouse or one of the children of the miners, who lost their lives because of an occupational accident in underground coal or lignite mining between June 10, 2003 and May 13, 2014, will have the opportunity to be hired in public employment. If these miners did not have a spouse or child, then one of their siblings will be eligible for employment in a civil service post.”

In other words, it automatically excludes the relatives of miners who lost their lives in occupational mining accidents before June 10, 2013, including the 103 workers who died in 1983 in Armutçuk (in the northern province of Zonguldak); the 68 workers who died in 1990 in Yeni Çeltik (in the northern province of Amasya) and the hundreds more who died in Sorgun, Kozlu and other places.

A relative of a miner who died in one of those accidents has complained about the new bill in an e-mail.

“Arranging this article in a way that excludes the relatives of certain miners because of timing criteria creates even more unfairness. This article applies to 163 people but ignores the relatives of more than 1,000 miners who died in other accidents.”

It is always easy to say: “We will never forget” in ceremonies and speeches. This is why deputies need to fix the problem as soon as possible. Otherwise, they may feel ashamed if certain “miner martyrs” are discriminated against because of time periods.

Kanat Atkaya, hdn, Opinion,