Two weeks ago, when Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s home town of Rize was flooded, he announced that it was a disaster area. But even though earthquakes and floods have afflicted Van (Wan) in eastern Turkey and its districts in recent years, he has never made such an announcement for Van.
There was a massive earthquake in Van in 2011, the Başkale earthquake in 2020 and now there have been three weeks of severe flooding. However, ANF reports that “the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is applying double standards, and could be said to be punishing Van, where 80-90% of the people voted for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).”
“No flood defences have been built for years. My house has collapsed. We have asked for assistance over and over again, but with no result, and now this has happened. We cannot sleep at night, we have to watch out for the floodwaters. We are really suffering. No-one knows about us. Eight of our houses are underwater. We want the government to announce it as a disaster area,” said Levent Şimşek, one of the Kurdish villagers from Esenyamaç in Başkale.
So far, around 400 homes and hundreds of acres of agricultural land have been submerged beneath the floodwaters in the villages around Başkale, Özalp, Erciş, Çaldıran and Gürpınar due to the heavy rains that have turned into floods over the past three weeks in Van.
Kenan Şimşek, another villager, told ANF: “The state has not been present in the whole of these three weeks. Our animals have died, but it might be us who will die in the floods tomorrow. Where is the district governor, the provincial governor, the state? I fear that there will be losses of lives. Our homes have been underwater since the Eid al-Adha [19-23 July].”
Around a thousand animals have lost their lives in the floodwaters. People are worried the floods will continue. The villagers are trying to protect themselves from the floods through their own efforts.
“Our homes and livestock were not insured. They will come along afterwards and say, ‘But you had no insurance.’ We are destroyed, destitute,” said Kurdish villager Salih Yıldız Şükrü.
Daştan Şimşek also shared his concerns, stating that all their agricultural land is underwater. “The state makes relief dependent on having insurance. We have lost 300 sheep. Our people need help. Agriculture and livestock here have been severely affected. A lot of our people were already forced into internal migration after the earthquake because there weren’t homes to live in.”
After the earthquake in the Başkale district of Van on 12 February 2020, the villagers who had suffered from the earthquake had called for the area to be announced as a disaster area. The AKP’s MP for Van, Abdulhalat Arvas, reacted to these appeals with a threat: “We’ll pull out and go, and the mountain can come down and look after you.”
The experiences of recent days have reminded the people of Başkale in particular of the way they were left to their fate after the earthquake. Meanwhile, the Democratic Kurdish Society Centre in Denmark has launched a solidarity campaign and stated that all donations collected will be sent to the victims of the floods in Van through the Kurdish Red Crescent (Heyva Sor a Kurdistanê).
Information, obtained by ANF, is provided below for those who would like to donate:
Mobil-pay account: Den Demokratiske Kurdiske Folkeforsamling i Danimark
Address: Marielundsvej 46 – 1