Don’t Let Erdogan Weaponize Earthquake Aid for Turkey

All Turks deserve prayers and assistance as they work to rescue survivors and recover from a series of devastating earthquakes.

Every country that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened in recent years—Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Armenia, and even the largely Kurdish Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES)—has offered Turkey assistance in its hour of need.

Erdogan, however, has been less than a statesman. He telephoned many municipal and provincial leaders in the hardest-hit areas, but neglected to call mayors belonging to the political opposition. Once again, Erdogan shows he is not a leader for all Turks.

The Biden administration, to its credit, has also offered assistance to Turkey, including the dispatch of search-and-rescue teams. Given Erdogan’s willingness to play politics at even the most inappropriate time, the State Department must ensure that all Turks can access its aid according to their needs—rather than, as Erdogan might be inclined to manipulate it, according to their ethnicity or politics.

If they are not already there, U.S. diplomats should be in the earthquake zone, independently identifying needs. If the Turkish government is unwilling to assist, for example, Kurdish towns and villages in the earthquake zone, then the United States should do so directly. If Erdogan impedes their work, the White House should publicly call him out.

It is also important to have observers on the ground to ensure that Erdogan does not divert cash and assistance in pursuit of his own election. Turks rightly ridiculed Erdogan previously for giving away tea bags at election rallies.

With the opposition suspending their campaigns, Erdogan must not seek advantage and use a flood of international assistance to replenish his war chest. This may seem calloused, but corruption has increased over Erdogan’s two decades in power, according to Transparency International.

The same need for care and monitoring holds true for Syria. Natural disasters know no borders. If Erdogan will not allow free transit across Turkey’s border for Western aid workers, then the State Department should enact a Plan B to bring assistance to portions of Syria controlled by the AANES. The same holds true in northern Syrian districts closer to the epicenter controlled by Turkish-backed militias. Prior to the earthquake, Turkish forces and their proxies actively sought to ethnically cleanse Afrin of its Kurdish residents. With the absence of international media, Erdogan may seek to use the crisis to advance his goal by weaponizing relief.

When the dust clears and rescue operations end, the United States should also speak up for all Turks in the name of accountability and transparency. While Turkey suffers regular earthquakes, corruption in construction—a sector Erdogan and his allies monopolize—allows many contractors to fall short of code.

Erdogan must also answer why his government ignored warnings by seismologists, some as recent as last week, that a large earthquake appeared inevitable.

By all means, the United States should support Turkey until all rescue workers account for all residents in collapsed buildings. But it should not be blind to the reality that Erdogan seeks advantage in every crisis. All Turks deserve relief, whether they are Turkish or Kurdish, Sunni, Alevi, Yezidi or Christian, and whether they voted for the Kurdish HDP, the center-left CHP, or Erdogan’s AKP.


Σχετικά Άρθρα