Public resentment against a series of construction amnesties brought in by the Turkish government in 2018 generally blamed for the large-scale destruction caused by twin earthquakes that hit the country’s south on February 6, has brought to light the stance of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Garo Paylan, who opposed the amnesties from the outset.
Experts warned that construction amnesties are murderous in countries with high earthquake risk, weakening the enforcement of building codes and creating a vulnerable building stock. Some 300,000 buildings that were hit by the earthquake received permits as a result of a construction amnesty approved by the Turkish parliament in 2018.
In the wake of the disaster, opposition politicians, including the leader of the main opposition republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, severely criticised the amnesties. However, a construction amnesty was promised as part of that year’s election campaign and eight CHP lawmakers voted in favour of the 2018 amnesty.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was the only party in the Turkish Parliament to oppose the construction amnesty in 2018. Paylan explained the reasons for the party’s opposition, and discussed the proposed law.
“A construction amnesty is made up of one article. How many people does it concern? 13 million offices and residences. That means it is an issue that interests almost 50 million of our citizens. A bleeding wound,” Paylan said when addressing to the parliament, just 45 days before the 2018 elections.
“Just think, you give amnesty to a 10-storey building. 100 citizens live in this building. An earthquake happens and those citizens find themselves under the rubble. Who will take the responsibility for that? Millions of our citizens live in faulty buildings. This is not the crime of our citizens,” he said.
Paylan asked, “Is it right to give amnesty to that building without any inspections?”
Just a few days before the tremors began on 6 February, a new draft law for amnesties was pending for approval in the Turkish parliament. Paylan continued his fierce opposition to the amnesty and against the new proposal during a parliamentary speech in July 2022.
“Lots of your cities are awaiting an earthquake, millions of builders are faulty, weren’t the previous construction amnesties sufficient? No, they were not,” he said, adding that the new amnesty condemn citizens to living in coffin-houses.
Turkey’s political parties see construction amnesties as an easy way to ensure more votes. However, such amnesties are not only a political tactic, but also a financial one, especially under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), that based its development policy on a construction boom.