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Jailed Kurdish leader says Erdoğan is the problem with Turkey’s poor post-quake response

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Jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said on Thursday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the main reason behind the Turkish government’s poor response to massive earthquakes earlier this week.

Turkey’s most powerful earthquake in almost 100 years struck near the city of Gaziantep, home to some 2 million people and located on the border with Syria. Officials say more than 17,500 people have died so far in Turkey and neighboring Syria.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which occurred while people were still asleep, was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region amid search-and-rescue efforts that same day.

“Do you know what the problem is, Erdoğan? … You are the problem, Erdoğan,” Demirtaş said in a series of tweets on Thursday, listing the reasons for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s failure to handle search and rescue operations efficiently after the quakes.

According to Demirtaş, people could not sidestep Erdoğan and distribute the collected assistance to people in the earthquake-affected areas because the president holds all the power.

The Kurdish leader said when Erdoğan looks at the earthquake victims, he does not see them as real people, but only as potential voters for the upcoming elections in May, as he has forgotten how to “love, cry, embrace and show compassion.”

“We, the 85 million people [of Turkey], come from a different world than you. You have forgotten humanity,” Demirtaş said, addressing the president.

As a solution, Demirtaş told Erdoğan not to “impose bans or insult [or] threaten” people and to “get off” their backs so they can tend to their wounds themselves.

In his first address to the nation a day after the massive earthquakes, Erdoğan threatened people who spread “lies” about the disaster, saying he was “taking note of all lies and distortions and will open [his] notebook when the time comes.”

The president’s remarks were interpreted by many as an attempt to silence criticism of his administration for what they see as a poor response to the disaster.

The president acknowledged his government’s “shortcomings” on Wednesday during a visit to Hatay, one of the provinces hardest hit by the quakes, but insisted it was “not possible to be prepared for a disaster like this,” while frustration spread across southern Turkey among many destitute families who accused the government of failing to reach them and rescue their loved ones from the rubble.

Erdoğan also drew criticism for once again linking deaths in the massive quakes, while speaking to a victim in Kahramanmaraş, to “destiny’s plan,” a phrase often used by the president in the wake of disasters that his government is accused of failing to take precautions for in advance.

Erdoğan has come under fire several times for linking deaths in other disasters to “destiny,” while experts and citizens said they happened due to the AKP government’s failure to take the necessary precautions to prevent them.

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