By Mikaela Tenner
Last Tuesday, Turkey experienced the most deadly mining accident in its history when an explosion occurred in a mine in the city of Soma. The search for victims ended on Saturday, with a total of 301 people succumbing to the fire within the mine.
As one may expect, the scene near the mine has been filled with relatives of the miners mourning the deaths of their loved ones since the incident occurred. Wandering through the crowds of mourners, reporters have heard women singing of their lost spouses, and children crying for their lost parents.
Alongside the mourners, however, there are protesters. Thousands of Turkish citizens have gathered at the site of the disaster in Soma as well as in other cities around the country. These protesters are saddened by the loss of so many in this disaster, but are equally as angry with the Turkish government for not enforcing stronger coal mining safety regulations. The Turkish citizens want their government to work toward the prevention of these disasters in the future, and believe the government has done a poor job up to this point.
Despite the fact that the protesters are simply drawing attention to issues concerning mine safety, the government is employing a vast amount of brutality to stop them from doing so. Most protests have experienced widespread police brutality. Police have been using tear gas, water jets, and riot shields to try to prevent the protests. Many protesters have been injured by this shocking brutality.
Perhaps the most shocking act of brutality came from the Prime Minister’s aid Yusuf Yerkel, who was photographed kicking a protester in Soma. The Turkish administration has tried to distance itself from this situation, but protests have continued to escalate because of it.
The Turkish government seems to think that the reactions of its citizens are rather extreme for a mining accident. However, it seems reasonable for the citizens to protest when you consider that this coal mining disaster is the worst in Turkey’s history and hundreds of lives were lost.
If the Turkish government is more receptive to the complaints of these protestors, it is likely that the situation will blow over and the storm will calm down. However, up to this point the government has ignored and acted violently toward the protesters and their complaints. This has led to more anger and only perpetuated the problem.
As the protests continue to become more violent and attract global attention, it is clear that the Turkish government must take action if they wish to see an end to it. Making new safety and mining reforms is a goal that will surely appease the Turkish citizens, but in the meantime, the government must meet with and show compassion towards those who lost loved ones in the deadly Soma accident. If the government continues its current course of action, it is possible that riots will erupt in protest of not only government policy on safety regulations, but also in other areas as well.