In Turkey, pro-government television journalists rush to hide their microphones behind their backs when angry earthquake victims enter the shot uninvited. But there are also journalists who honor the responsibility with which their public role comes. An example is news presenter Dilara Gonder, who dared to state the obvious on air: that the earthquake of 1999 did not become a lesson for the government and the government-friendly mega-contractors. “Who is to blame for this? Fate? Nature? No. I say it again, the engineers, the construction companies and the one who gave the approval are responsible,” she said.
Who gave the approval? Those who for two decades allowed innumerable flimsy buildings to be constructed, so that they could win votes while their contractor friends made big bank. The responsibility has a name: Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish president, in his protected visits to the earthquake-stricken cities, has only one answer and “consolation” to offer the victims: Kismet. The same answer, whose amorality cannot by hidden under its pseudo-religious cloak, was also given by a contractor when he was asked why an apartment building he built collapsed in seconds, killing 80 people. “Kismet, of course.”
Kismet used as an alibi. But republics are formed and act precisely to confront any kind of kismet, to overcome it, to defeat it or at least to mitigate its allegedly predetermined consequences. If we don’t prepare ourselves and we submit to the worship of destiny, there will be no need for anti-earthquake regulations, no need for courts (can God, Allah, Yahweh, Krishna or whomever else stand trial?) no need even for elections, governments and rulers.
In Turkey, kismet has the name of Erdogan. One piece of evidence unearthed these days would suffice in a trial that will never take place: In a video from March 2019, just before the municipal elections, Erdogan is seen campaigning in Kahramanmaras, and asking the public to reward him with their vote over a populist favor that turned out to be lethal: “We have solved the problems of 144,556 Kahramanmaras citizens with the [construction] amnesty.” Erdogan was referring to his government’s zoning amnesty laws in the area.
The province was hit hard by the two earthquakes. In contrast, no one was killed in Hatay’s Erzin district, because the local mayor went against kismet and imposed urban planning rules. It is painfully simple.