Victims of the earthquake in Diyarbakir: AFAD is insufficient, trustee municipal leaders are nowhere to be found
REMZI BUDANCIR- The loss of life as a result of the 7.7 and 7.6 Maras-centered earthquakes continues to mount. In Diyarbakir, where the debris removal continues, the number of dead has reached 144 while the number of injured is 877. The debris removal efforts for the seven collapsed buildings in the central district continue. There is still no definite information on how many people remain trapped under the rubble. The number of dead and injured may rise yet.
NEED FOR BLANKETS, FOOD, AND BURNABLE SUPPLIES
The structurally damaged buildings in earthquake-hit Diyarbakir also pose a safety risk. Reports note that there are many damaged buildings, primarily in Baglar and Sehitlik, but also in other places. As damage detection work has not been undertaken, people do not currently know which buildings are unsafe. Diyarbakir locals who cannot remain in their homes spend the night in parks, vehicles, or tents. Earthquake victims at, Sumerpark, and Nevroz Park, where the Disaster and Management Authority (AFAD) has set up tents, are struggling. There are no blankets in many of the tents. Since there is also no electricity in the tents, many citizens are having to stay warm by lighting fires. Their difficulty is compounded by the persistent snowfall. Earthquake victims are trying to make it through the night by staying warm around the fires they have built. Their most basic needs are blankets, firewood, and food.
INSTITUTIONS ARE INSUFFICIENT
The city has mobilized after the earthquake. The need for tents and blankets should be met by AFAD or the Red Crescent. Stating that regular civilians and locals are doing the best they can to aid relief efforts, earthquake victims voiced the most complaints regarding official institutions. Some of the complaints from victims who spent the night in the cold weather at the Kosuyolu park are as follows: “Look, good Samaritans are spending the night trying to help Some bring firewood, others bring home-made pastries, juice, or water. People are doing what they can. But AFAD, the Red Crescent, or the Governorship is insufficient in this regard.”
DISORGANIZATION IS CREATING VICTIMIZATION
Do the Red Crescent or AFAD not have trucks? According to the victims, they have many. A citizen who explained that a Red Crescent truck appeared at the Kosuyolu park entrance midday, said the following: “The truck was full of blankets and tents. Thousands of people are staying in this park. The truck came, made two laps around the park. There was supposed to be attendants accompanying that truck. They were supposed to provide organization and distribute the aid. The truck left without distribution. There is no food. Goof people are making soup at home and bringing it over. For God’s sake, can’t the government do this? It does not. The municipalities are not here. The governorship is not here. Look, there was supposed to be a field kitchen here. But there isn’t. I’m saying it again, there are many compassionate locals, there is a lot of aid, but there is no one distributing it to the public.”
Despite the lack of organization, there is a significant degree of solidary in the city. Businesses, cafes, restaurants, hotels, wedding venues have all opened their doors to earthquake victims. Some businesses use their own means to distribute warm soup, bread, and water to these places, which remain open through the night. Almost all of the spaces in the Dicle mansions host earthquake victims. A business owner in the district of Dicle, who serves three meals a day, explained both the work they do and the situation on the ground: “We are hosting more than 200 earthquake victims in our business alone. All businesses are like this. We are trying to provide meals to over 600 earthquake victims daily. The food comes from places in Diyarbakir that prepare food and we distribute it.”
TRUSTEE-LED MUNICIPALITIES ARE ABSENT
While civil society, businesses, and citizens are launching multi-faceted campaigns, what are the municipalities doing? Are municipalities unable to provide aid? Reminding that the region with businesses is the Kayapinar region, the owner of the business said:
“Kayapinar was the municipality in the best condition among the district municipalities. That was when it was in HDP control. It is currently being managed by a government appointed trustee. There is a reading hall belonging to the Kayapinar municipality next door. A group of people who stayed there came in last night and said that no food was served. We took food enough for 200 people from here. We asked, they haven't done anything so far. Think about it, we don't even have police in the area. At night, children set up a samovar and distribute tea to the people, and yet the municipality is not here. This is the state of things.”
THOSE STAYING IN MOSQUES STRUGGLE
Not only in municipalities, but mosques also have similar problems. Mosques were opened to earthquake victims and for those who cannot stay in their homes. Since food is not provided to those staying in mosques, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and volunteers working in the city are trying to deliver food and blankets.
While the lack of organization on the part of AFAD and other official institutions was the subject of criticism in the city where solidarity is strong, restrictions of the press began. While there was no restriction on the press on the first day of the earthquake, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s declaration of a State of Emergency, members of the press were not allowed to be admitted to the wreckage area. The police asked the members of the press who went to follow the excavation work to present the turquoise press card provided by the Communications Department. Those who do not have a turquoise press card were not allowed into the field. In response to reactions from journalists, the police said, “These are the directions we received. Instructions are coming through incessantly. Journalists who are not accredited by the Governor's Office will not be admitted to the work area.”