2019 video of Erdoğan praising zoning amnesty in quake-hit province goes viral

A 2019 video of President Erdoğan in which he boasts about his government's zoning amnesty laws in the southeastern Kahramanmaraş province has gone viral. The province is one of the 10 provinces in which thousands of buildings have collapsed after two major earthquakes hit the region on Feb. 6.

Duvar English

A 2019 video of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which he boasts about the construction amnesty granted in the earthquake-stricken southeastern Kahramanmaraş province has gone viral on social media.

Prior to March 31, 2019 local elections, Erdoğan had addressed Kahramanmaraş citizens during a rally, saying: "We have solved the problems of 144,556 Kahramanmaraş citizens with the (construction) amnesty."

Erdoğan had similarly boasted about his government's amnesty move during rallies in the other quake-stricken provinces of Malatya and Hatay, as he was touring the country for the 2019 elections. 

Buildings in all of these three provinces have suffered extensive destruction in the aftermath of two major earthquakes on Feb. 6 as still thousands are believed to be under rubble. 

Istanbul Union of Chambers of Engineers and Urban Planners chair, Pelin Pinar Giritlioglu, approximated that nearly 75,000 buildings in the region affected by the quakes have been granted such “amnesties,” according to an interview with the BBC. If a building is granted an amnesty and the relevant fine is paid, the structure is not demolished even though it does not meet the relevant requirements listed in the building and earthquake regulations.

In 2018, even the Urbanization Ministry acknowledged that half of the structures in Turkey did not adhere to the relevant regulations.

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Deputy Secretary General Dr. Buğra Gökçe announced on Feb. 10 that 3.1 million buildings were granted amnesty before the 2018 general elections. The number of buildings that were granted amnesty in the ten provinces affected by the quakes is 294,165. 

The number of building amnesty certificates given in the relevant provinces is as follows: 59,247 in Adana, 10,629 in Adıyaman, 14,719 in Diyarbakır, 40,224 in Gaziantep, 56,464 in Hatay, 39,58 in Kahramanmaraş, 4,897 in Kilis, 22, 299 in Malatya, 21,107 in Osmaniye, and 25,521 in Şanlıurfa 

In May 2018 when the most recent zoning amnesty law was adopted, the government made the equivalent of US$2 billion in revenue as a result, according to online news outlet Asia Times

In a tweet in 2013, on the anniversary of Aug. 17, 1999 Marmara earthquake, President Erdoğan had said: "Buildings kill, not earthquakes. We need to learn to live with earthquakes and take measures accordingly."

His ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government was planning to issue a new construction amnesty before the elections scheduled for June 2023. 

As the death toll exceeds 22,000 in the aftermath of the Feb. 6-dated major earthquakes in southeastern Turkey, public outrage is growing.

People have been pointing out that monitoring of the construction regulations only exists on paper. The widespread catastrophe is interpreted as an indication that there are significant issues with the adoption and enforcement of the required construction standards.

Earlier this week, 170 lawyers filed a joint criminal complaint, demanding that authorities launch an investigation into the contractors of the demolished buildings and ban them from leaving the country pending trial.