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Turkish Football Fans Express Anger at Government Earthquake Response

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On Sunday, Turkish football fans threw stuffed animals on to the pitch for children victimized by the earthquake. Some fans also protested against the government’s response. Credit: VOA / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

During a football game on Sunday, Turkish fans threw stuffed animals onto the pitch as a sign of support for the children affected by the earthquakes that have shaken the country this month.

Some of the fans, who were spectating a game between Beşiktaş and Antalyaspor, also voiced their dissatisfaction with the Turkish government’s response to the earthquakes. As the dust settles on the devastation caused by the natural disaster, some members of Turkish society have grown increasingly critical of the government’s response.

An estimated 44,218 people have died in Turkey alone as a result of the earthquakes that also struck neighboring Syria. Many more thousands have been left in need of shelter and humanitarian aid.

Turkish football fans make gesture of solidarity after earthquakes

Turkish fans who were attending a match between Beşiktaş and Antalyaspor threw colorful teddy bears and stuffed animals onto the football pitch.

Turkish football players rushed to gather the stuffed animals whilst the license plate numbers of the eleven Turkish provinces impacted by the earthquake appeared on the scoreboard. The stuffed animals will be sent by Beşiktaş to children who were impacted by the natural disaster.

The football game was halted at exactly four minutes and 17 seconds to mark the time at which the earthquake struck southeastern Turkey at 4:17 a.m. local time on February 6.

Criticism of government response

During the game, some Beşiktaş fans started chanting “government resign” in protest against the Turkish government’s response to the natural disaster, which has been deemed by some as sluggish and insufficient.

On Saturday, just one day before, fans of Fenerbahçe chanted similar slogans criticizing the government.

Those criticizing the government have said that the authorities were neither adequately prepared for a disaster on this scale, nor were they fast enough to act when it did occur.

“This government was just not prepared,” said Soli Ozel, a lecturer at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. In particular, he criticized the government for spending funds that should have been set aside for natural disasters on other projects like highway construction instead.

Since 1999, when an earthquake struck northwestern Turkey and killed over 18,000 people, the government has collected an earthquake tax intended to provide funds for natural disaster prevention and relief initiatives.

Ozel described the situation as “near-total incompetence on preparedness on the part of the government… To make matters worse, if that were even possible, the government is also making it almost impossible for other organizations, civil society, citizens themselves, and mayors and municipalities to actually help.”

For Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the potential political fallout from the natural disaster could not have come at a worse time. With presidential elections scheduled for May this year, any perceived incompetence on the government’s part could really damage Erdoğan’s popularity at the polls.

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