15 May 2014

Turkey: grief and anger met with contempt and thuggery

Pre News refresh player – this is the default player for the C4 news site – please do not delete. Ziad

Yusuf Yerkel is a senior adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan – a man who thinks his country should join the EU.

He is usually to be seen at the side of his boss. He is an educated man Рnot least at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.  So to say he should know better is putting it mildly.


But there he is, in front of several photographers and cameraman, in Soma yesterday, kicking a protester whilst he is both lying on the ground and being manhandled by several military guards.

A protester is kicked by Yusuf Yerkel, advisor to Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, as Special Forces police officers detain him during a protest against Erdogan's visit to Soma

It is not confirmed, but many reports say the man being assaulted by this senior government official as he lies on the ground is a relative of a dead, missing, or injured miner. Given the location in Soma the chances of that are very high.

Mr Yerkel, to the best of my knowledge, has not been arrested by the police in Turkey. If so – why not?

He has also, as I write, neither resigned nor been sacked – why not?

It all compounds the sense that Prime Minister Erdogan does not seem to be aware what century we are now living in. Turkey’s astonishing economic performance in recent years belies an autocratic, dictatorial, political elite which we saw personified in Mr Yerkel yesterday.

This insouciance was blindingly obvious when Mr Erdogan himself made some simply mind-boggling comments in his speech at the disaster zone.

He said mining disasters are ‘usual’ and normal. His evidence was a string of disasters in England in the nineteenth century. Yes, really, the nineteenth century. .

His implication was obvious – and not lost on the Turkish people who responded with anger – mining disasters are normal and no big deal, and we in Turkey are still in the nineteenth century anyhow.

As a national insult, at this location, at this time, it is breathtaking.

It would have killed the political career of any US or European leader stone-dead on the spot. In Turkey things just roll on.

Today PM Erdogan is still in power. No resignation. No apology.

The goons of the various paramilitary Turkish police forces across the nation are right now ready to attack protesters on the streets. Who knows – the government may again shut down social media to stop anyone voicing their opinion in “democratic” Turkey.

Meanwhile (in a country strikebound today in protest over Erdogan’s close ties to the mining company and his governments quashing of a safety probe into the mine only last month) Turkey’s President is in Soma today.

Will he show the same utter contempt for the Turkish people that the Prime Minister and his thug-in-a-suit advisor  Yerkel did yesterday?

Follow @alextomo on Twitter

Tweets by @alextomo