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Healthcare worker in quake zone who criticized Erdoğan on live TV faces investigation

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A healthcare worker who complained on live TV about the government’s failure to properly handle the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that hit the south of Turkey on Feb. 6 and who invited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to come see the devastation for himself is likely to face an investigation, the Diken news agency reported.

The nurse, identified only by the initials B.A., interrupted a reporter from the Habertürk TV station broadcasting live from Adıyaman on Tuesday.

Adıyaman is one of the 10 Turkish provinces that have been hit the hardest by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake which struck near the city of Gaziantep on the border with Syria, killing nearly 40,000 people in Turkey and parts of Syria.

The powerful earthquake, which occurred as people were still sleeping, was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue operations the same day.

The health worker said Adıyaman was left to its fate for the first three days and that nobody came to help while people were calling to be rescued from under the rubble.

“The president should come here, if he dares. There is not even a lawmaker [visiting] Adıyaman, no high-level officials. You all left us alone. Your blood is under the flattened buildings, the blood of all high-level officials. Where is crisis management? All of those people died. Wake up, Turkey,” the young woman said tearfully.

Kamil Tekin Sürek, a lawyer from the Turkish Health and Social Service Workers Union (SES), told Diken that police went to the woman’s house Tuesday evening immediately after she spoke on TV and asked her to sign a statement about her remarks on TV.

The woman agreed to sign, adding a note saying that what she said on TV was not a crime.

Sürek said an investigation into the woman is likely to follow and that the police did not want to question her now because of the post-earthquake chaos, just making a note in the records for subsequent action.

She could face charges of insulting the president.

President Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government came under fire due to their poor performance in coordinating search and rescue efforts after the massive earthquake.

They were mainly blamed by opposition politicians, journalists and human rights activists for failing to mobilize enough people for the efforts and a lack of coordination among the teams, which resulted in civilians in some regions trying to pull their loved ones from under the rubble by themselves and finding them frozen to death although they had sustained no critical injuries in the quakes.

Many social media users also complained about the lack of basic necessities, such as water, blankets and tents, as well as medical supplies in the earthquake regions.

Erdoğan, who visited the earthquake zone last week, admitted that there had been “shortcomings” in his government’s response.

“So many buildings were damaged that, unfortunately, we were not able to speed up our efforts as quickly as we had hoped,” Erdoğan said.

TV reporters in the earthquake zone to cover the aftermath of the tragedy are frequently interrupted by locals who want to voice their complaints about the government due to its poor handling of the disaster. In most cases, reporters turn off their microphones out of fear of facing retribution from the government as the majority of the Turkish media is controlled by the government or its cronies.

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