As the official death toll from the February earthquakes that devastated southern and southeastern Turkey rose to 50,399, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), rejected a parliamentary motion to investigate the consequences of building amnesties.
The motion, which was submitted to the parliament by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) for discussion on Wednesday and rejected by the votes of MPs from the AKP and the MHP, proposed to investigate past amnesties due to the high rate of advantage taken of them in the provinces hit by the earthquake, and to discuss the steps to be taken in this regard, especially building inspections.
Because of the magnitude of the destruction caused by the disaster, the Turkish government has been criticised for past building amnesties, which allowed construction projects to proceed without fulfilling the necessary safety requirements.
HDP Deputy co-Chair Tülay Hatimoğulları said that one of the most important reasons for the high number of collapsed buildings was the issue, by way of the amnesties, of building registration certificates to unsupervised and illegal buildings. Hatimoğlu also argued that the earthquake commission established in the parliament did not carry out proper result-based work.
According to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Ulaş Karasu, a total of 335,000 households in 11 provinces affected by the earthquake were included in the scope of the building amnesties, otherwise known as zoning amnesties.
“With a rough calculation, these buildings, where 1.5 million of our citizens live, were suddenly licensed without supervision, and our citizens were left to their fate,” Karasu said. “The zoning amnesties were born as an election investment.”
The last construction or zoning amnesty in Turkey was declared in 2018 just before the presidential elections of the same year. Just a few days before the 6 February tremors, a new draft law for zoning amnesties was pending approval in the Turkish parliament. According to one of Turkey’s leading geoscientists, Celal Şengör, “zoning amnesty in an earthquake country is murder.”
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, while announcing on Wednesday that the confirmed death toll had risen to 50,399, responded to criticism based on the death toll being understated, saying, “identification works are ongoing, the number of deaths may be updated.”