State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki on Monday “reject[ed] the apparent use of unprovoked violence against [Turkish] demonstrators and protesters and urged accountability,” after a weekend in which the death toll of the Soma mining disaster in Turkey rose to over three hundred confirmed victims. CNN reported over the weekend that Erdogan and the AKP continue to be plagued by their violent response to the tragedy.
The final bodies were pulled out Saturday afternoon, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said. However, as the recovery effort comes to an end, controversy over Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s response to the tragedy refuses to blow over. On Friday, police in the western city used tear gas, plastic pellets and a water cannon on protesters angered by the government’s response. The protesters, dressed mostly in black, chanted “Don’t sleep, Soma, remember your dead!” as they passed through city streets a few miles from the disaster site, trying to reach a statue honoring miners. Amid a rising tide of discontent, local authorities have banned protests in Soma and apparently clamped down on those taking part.
Turkey’s Zaman outlet described the situation as “a de facto state of emergency in the town.” CNN had already late last week described the government’s response to the tragedy as “perhaps the strangest crisis management the world has ever seen,” with top officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) being filmed and photographed assaulting mourner-protesters. A video of Erdogan visibly punching one man while allegedly hurling anti-Semitic slurs went viral – Business Insider unpacked the controversy extensively – as did a photo of top Erdogan advisor Yusuf Yerkel kicking a protester who had been wrestled to the ground by two security officials. Ankara’s damage control has at times subsequently veered into the bizarre. Yerkel for instance released a statement announcing that he was taking medical leave for a week because he had hurt his leg kicking the protester.
[Photo: BBC News / YouTube]