Anger at Turkish government erupts at earthquake anniversary vigil
Over 10,000 people convened early Tuesday for a vigil marking the first anniversary of the earthquakes that devastated southeastern Turkey, protesting what they labeled as government negligence in the aftermath. The 7.8 magnitude quake, Turkey's deadliest disaster in recent history, razed towns and parts of cities in the southeast and neighboring Syria, killing over 50,000 in Turkey, and around 5,900 in Syria, and displacing millions.
In Hatay, the hardest-hit Turkish province, attendees demanded resignations from the government and local officials at the vigil, booing during speeches and barring officials from the memorial. In Hatay's main square, as Health Minister Fahrettin Koca spoke, some chanted, "Can anybody hear my voice?"—a reference to the desperate calls from beneath the rubble while awaiting rescue. Residents argue many deaths resulted not from the initial collapses but from the prolonged entrapment in the cold.
Following the vigil, mourners threw flowers into the Asi River, flowing through Hatay. Merve Gursel, mourning her aunt, her aunt's husband and her cousins lost in the quake, named each as she released a carnation into the water. "These people were alone that day. Their agony stems from not being rescued, from their cries going unheard," she stated.
Nesibe Duzgun, who also participated in the flower tribute, said it symbolized unity among Hatay's residents.
President Tayyip Erdogan acknowledged on social media that the earthquake's pain remains acute, praising his government's immediate response to "the disaster of the century" and highlighting the nation's unity. Yet, Hatay resident Nurul Sabah Aksu criticized the government's response, lamenting the abandonment and questioning the neglect: "Thousands died here. Where were they? Why was Hatay left to suffer? Why were we forgotten?"