Erdoğan aide says aid campaign for firefighting planes aimed at humiliating Turkey

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An aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said an aid campaign launched on social media asking the international community to send firefighting aircraft to Turkey to battle ongoing wildfires is aimed at humiliating the country.

“The so-called aid campaign, which has been organized from a single center abroad, has been launched out of ideological motivations to portray our state as powerless and to weaken our unity,” said Fahrettin Altun, Erdoğan’s director of communications.

The “Help Turkey” campaign, launched on social media on Sunday, was shared by hundreds of thousands of people including celebrities.

The global call made as part of the campaign says: “We are in need of fire planes and assistance to put a stop to the forest fires raging across more than 60 locations on the beautiful turquoise coast and mountains.” The “help Turkey” tag, in addition, has become the top trending topic on Twitter, shared by more than 2.4 million people as of Monday morning.

At least eight people have died in more than 120 blazes that broke out in Turkey’s southern and western coasts last week. The flames have been fueled by scorching summer temperatures and conditions that experts say have been worsened by climate change.

Altun said out of the 129 fires that broke out across 35 provinces, 122 have been contained. “Our Turkey is strong. Our state is very powerful. As our president said, we will make up for all our losses, except for the lives lost, and put off this fire which burnt our hearts,” Altun tweeted, adding the “StrongTürkiye” tag to his tweet.

Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have come under fire due to the poor response to the wildfires, allowing them to spread and taking a toll on wildlife and farm animals.

The harsh criticism targeting Turkish authorities centered around Erdoğan’s inaction and the small number of firefighting planes actively used to respond to fires. According to local media reports, Turkey had only one plane available to respond to the fires so leased two more from Russia for TL 1.3 million ($154,563) per day.

The Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK), a non-profit organization whose planes had been used in firefighting for decades, has been unable to participate in tenders held by the government seeking to lease firefighting aircraft in the last two years because THK firefighting planes don’t meet the aircraft requirements specified in the tender, Turkish media reports said.

 

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