Barış Terkoğlu

Who would believe Murat Kurum?

07 Mart 2024 Perşembe

They walk with wolves and ask to borrow a lamb, then expect us to believe them.

It was right after the Maraş earthquake. Not only buildings but also roads had collapsed, making access to the area difficult. Unfortunately, there was a lack of preparedness on the part of the state. I say "lack" because the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, under the Ministry of Transport, had thought of intervening from the air as a solution. For this purpose, it had written to 142 companies with aircraft, inquiring about their availability. But this was considered only after the earthquake, on February 6th! Moreover, the letters reached the companies the next day, on February 7th. Despite many companies responding, "We are ready to fly helicopters for help," there were no follow-ups. It was as if the government had asked out of mere curiosity and then closed the book. Of course, those who had died were gone, and those who remained had to cope!

I had written this story a year ago, after discussing it with a group of aviators who operate in civil aviation and were contemplating the earthquake, along with supporting documents. A year has passed since. Turkey has locked its focus on local elections. Naturally, earthquakes are a main agenda item in the Istanbul elections, with Murat Kurum making the most radical promise: they will renew 650,000 houses. Recalling Ziya Pasha's saying, "One's actions are a mirror to their character," I revisited the aviators' study and came across a very interesting story.


Let me start with a question. How many helicopters does the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IMM) have? The answer is zero. It's somewhat strange for such a large metropolis to not have any helicopters. But don't think there were ever any. Our earthquake-related story concerning Murat Kurum begins now.

According to IMM reports, in the event of a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, 91,000 buildings in Istanbul would suffer heavy or severe damage, and 167,000 buildings would suffer moderate damage. Moreover, the destruction would not be limited to buildings alone. With its infrastructure and roads, Istanbul would face a major collapse. Streets would become inaccessible. In such a scenario, aerial transportation would become vital. Rescue teams, equipment for debris removal, food and logistics, medical personnel, and injured people would have to be transported by air.


Aerial transportation is not only necessary for dealing with destruction. It's also essential for managing traffic from above, illuminating areas, and mapping destruction. In a city filled with skyscrapers, even potential fires would have to be extinguished from the air. Civil aviators, even if they couldn't convince politicians, had prepared for this contingency.

Now, back to the IMM...


At this point, the number of helicopters IMM had come into question. Initially, IMM's first helicopter was acquired by the former mayor, Bedrettin Dalan. Two Jet Ranger helicopters, purchased between 1985 and 1988, were put into municipal service and had served their time. Later, mainly through rentals, aircraft were used for firefighting, meteorological studies, and zoning inspections.

As the 2019 municipal elections approached, the municipality had two helicopters. One was a BELL 206 B III Jet Ranger helicopter, used for spraying and traffic control from 1999 to 2018. The other was an S-76 Sikorsky TCHKN helicopter, sold to the municipality by Kale Group for a nominal fee almost as a donation. Initially, it was used for environmental and zoning department team inspections five days a week, later reduced to two.

So, you might wonder what happened to these two helicopters, potentially vital in an earthquake scenario. Let me answer that. Both were sold to the same company as the 2019 elections approached. First, the BELL 206 type helicopter, followed by the Sikorsky helicopter put up for auction in October 2018. By early 2019, their new owner was Coşkun Crane.

I visited the website of Coşkun Crane. Both helicopters were listed in the "rental helicopters" section. When you zoomed in on the photos, the IMM logo was still visible. While the company's owners are not well-known, they were rumored to be close to the former Minister of Transportation, Binali Yıldırım, in aviation circles.

There's more...


Although both helicopters were in flying condition at the time of their sale, the purchasing company had not applied for a license. Since they were not transferred under another business, they became inoperable. With the sale of IMM's last helicopter by the end of 2018, IMM's flight license also expired.

In summary...

As Istanbul awaits an earthquake, the two aerial vehicles IMM had were sold to a "familiar" company by the AKP administration months before the elections. Not enough, the Transportation Minister who knew the company ran for mayor of IMM and lost. Now, the candidate from the same party, Murat Kurum, claims they take the earthquake seriously and talks about building 650,000 houses.

I wonder how an approach that sees even the municipality's earthquake-response helicopters as a source of profit will protect Istanbul from an earthquake...

When people's faith in money is surpassed by their belief, even if the ground shakes, none of us will fall.

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