Elif Torun Öneren, leader of Turkey’s Revolutionary Party (DP), was caught under the rubble in the devastating twin earthquakes of 6 February. She was rescued after 17 hours, but lost many family members including her daughter and her brother. Some weeks after the calamity, she posted on her social media accounts about the night of the earthquake and days that followed.
Below is a translation of her testimony, lightly edited for clarity.
It has been 23 days since the earthquakes that the government calls “the calamity of the century”. We say it was the massacre of the century that the government knowingly let happen.
I personally was rescued from the collapsed building after 17 hours. Here I will detail my fight for my life, and the inhuman things I witnessed once I was out, both as a politician and as a mother/aunt/niece, as a human being.
The earthquake woke us up in the middle of the night on 6 February. We did not know yet what horrors would follow. When my cousin pulled me out of the rubble 17 hours later, I knew there would be hundreds of thousands left to die in the name of profiteering, that we were in a ring of fire that the government had built.
The next night lasted a century, with cries coming from the collapsed buildings, no water, no shelter, no bathrooms – under the rain and hail, gathered by makeshift fires on the streets, in bare feet. We could not do anything. Those living in palaces did nothing on the first three days of the earthquake, they even prevented others from sending help.
I am a socialist woman. I salute diversity among people, the different skin tones, religions, languages, faiths. On day two, when members of an Islamic charity came to hand me copies of the holy book Quran, I thought humanity had died.
Humanity has died indeed. My nephew, two of my aunts, two of my uncles by marriage, my brother, my daughter… I lost 24 people under the rubble, and that was when I knew that even if we survive, there are now hundreds of thousands of people who are the living dead.
It was socialists and patriots who came to the people’s aid first in that hell. Anything any state body says otherwise is a lie.
The government chose to turn a blind eye to the mass killing of the people, to cut off aid coming into the area, to use civilians rescued from the rubble as photo-ops for their own gain, to cover for the incompetent disaster response unit AFAD, to leave the people to die of hunger and disease, and to bury the dead in body bags and blankets.
We know that it was not the earthquake that killed us, it was the government that spent decades of earthquake taxes on anything but the reinforcement of buildings, that offered amnesty for buildings that didn’t meet the codes, that unabashedly blames the calamity on the opposition and that calls what happened to us “fate”.
The bodies that could be buried in bags were the lucky ones. Thousands of people were “cleared away” together with the rubble. I was lucky that I could bury my daughter in one piece, that I could find a coffin for her. My brother burned to death. My two aunts had frostbite and broken necks. They died on the pavement.
Our bodies were buried under the rubble, yes, next to this government’s rent-seeking and unlawful system of tyranny and pillaging.
They put the people through hell with the fear they created, but now it’s the end for them. Today is the day to bring out whatever good that is left from under 21 years of rubble. Today is the day to put up hope for these lands that they turned into a hell for us. Today is the day to demand answers for those who drifted off to their final sleep under concrete. Today is the day to take down fascism, to not forget and to never forgive.
My daughter Eylem was taken from my arms. Now my rage grows, in this country that took our lives away. I cannot say goodbye. I have my daughter in my heart.
I promise, my beautiful daughter, that we were the last ones to go hungry. Your name will live on in forests, libraries, shelters. I will include you in my fight, to stop daughters dying before their mothers.
I know this fight will end in sunshine. We will never be cold again.