After 21 people were killed in a multiple-vehicle crash in Derik, southeast Turkey, relatives reacted angrily to the government’s offer of 50,000-lira payments, saying that they would rather those responsible were held accountable.
On Saturday 20 August, 37 people were killed in Derik and in another separate road accident in the Kurdish-majority southeast of Turkey. In both cases, first responders were already on the scene dealing with earlier accidents when another vehicle ploughed into them.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s announcement that the government would make “support” payments of 50,000 Turkish liras (2800 euros) to the families of the victims has been treated with derision by relatives who spoke to the Mezopotamya News Agency.
Helin Ayebe, a cousin of victim İsa Ayebe, called Erdoğan’s payments “blood money”, after reports by experts and politicians that the accidents were caused by negligence, in particular naming the government-linked conglomerate Cengiz Holding.
“It’s not money we want, money will not lessen this pain, money is no consolation. What we want is a ring road, as soon as possible. What we want is justice. So many people have been killed. We don’t want this happening again tomorrow or the next day,” she said.
Politicians from the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have firmly placed the blame on the government-linked conglomerate Cengiz Holding, which they say owned the trucks involved in the crash. Cengiz also owns Eti Bakir, a company whose nearby recycling and fertiliser plant is the source of many of the lorries travelling through the area.
Cengiz issued a statement after the accident saying its customers were responsible for the trucks which crashed. But this has not quelled the anger among locals who say the powerful company is being protected by its allies in the government.
“They are trying to use money to cover up Cengiz Holding’s gross negligence in this incident,” said Figen Ayebe, another relative of İsa Ayebe, who blamed the conglomerate not only for the negligence leading to the crash but also for environmental harm caused by its plant.
“We want those responsible for this exposed. They are trying to close the matter with this money. We will never accept it,” she said. “We are going to keep chasing this. We want Eti Bakir closed. It is poisoning our land. Our green areas are dying. People are giving birth to disabled children.”
Meanwhile, locals and politicians have pointed to the lack of sufficient infrastructure for the heavy volume of traffic as another factor leading to the tragedy in Derik.
Sevim Tanrisever, who lost two relatives in the crash, said she did not want articulated lorries going through the town at all, noting that their numbers had been increasing in recent months. “All we want is those responsible to be exposed, and for the roads running through the town to be diverted outside the town.”
Behiye Ayebe, also a relative of İsa Ayebe, said, “twenty people have lost their lives due to negligence, and the biggest negligence is that there are no ring roads around these district towns. And because no proper precautions were taken after the first accident there was a much greater disaster. They are trying to silence the people with money. It is appalling that they are talking about money. This is like murder twice over. We don’t want money. We just want a ring road.”
The road where Derik’s double crash happened was reduced to a single carriageway by roadworks that were still underway after months. At the time of the first crash, the road was not closed, according to Ebru Günay, spokesperson for the HDP and part of the HDP’s delegation to the area after the crash.