On the first anniversary of the Feb. 6 earthquakes that first hit southeastern Hatay province along with 10 other cities at 04.17 a.m., thousands gathered to commemorate victims and protested against the state negligence.
Inhabitants of Hatay first met on Feb. 5 for a silent march. Hatay Academy Orchestra sang Turkish, Arabic and Armenian songs for the thousands of victims died in the quakes.
Bugün kayıplarımız için, Antakya için yürüdük. Uğur Mumcu Bulvarı’nda Hatay Akademi Orkestrası Türkçe, Arapça ve Ermenice şarkılar okudu. Orkestra’dan Ali 20 yıllık komşumdu. Depremde kaybettik. Melekler yoldaşın olsun Ali ❤️ pic.twitter.com/J4bkOHaQkW— Bora Selim | بورا سليم (@borabinyousef) February 5, 2024
Two separate commemoration events were organized in Köprübaşı neighborhood and Yunus Emre Park located close to each other. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca and executives of public institutions, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chair Özgür Özel, Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, Hatay Mayor Lütfü Savaş attended the commemoration ceremony at Köprübaşı.
In the commemoration ceremony at Yunus Emre Park, executives and lawmakers of different political parties and non-governmental organizations took part.
A minute of silence was observed for those who lost their lives at 04.17, when the first earthquake struck. The people of the province constantly shouted "Can anyone hear my voice?” as they did one year ago to reach out their relatives trapped under rubble.
They often shouted, "No forgetting, no forgiveness, no making amends," to point out the state negligence on the province. The anger among Hatay people was intense as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Feb. 4 threatened Hatay constituents to elect mayor from the ruling Justice and Development Party if they “want service.”
When Health Minister Koca took the floor to make a speech, earthquake survivors in the area protested against him and shouted, "We could not find a shroud, we could not find a hearse.”
Hatay'da Sağlık Bakanı Fahrettin Koca protesto edildi: “Biz kefen bulamadık, cenaze arabası bulamadık” pic.twitter.com/zgDp8aUl1n— duvaR (@gazeteduvar) February 6, 2024
Koca made a statement on X and criticized those protested against him for “being disrespectful against those departed.” He added, “Sometimes protest is met with understanding, yet these moments of reverence are not the time.”
Depremde kaybettiğimiz canların saygıyla anılmasından, hatıralarının yad edilmesinden, sessizlik içinde ruhlarına fatihalar okunmasından, dualar edilmesinden rahatsız olan mı var? Bu dakikalar hürmet dakikalarıdır. Bunun aksine davranış hem yaşayanları hem aramızdan ayrılanların…— Dr. Fahrettin Koca (@drfahrettinkoca) February 6, 2024
A police barricade was set up between the two commemorations. Those who broke the barricade marched with the slogans "The murderer state will be held accountable.”
CHP’s Lütfü Savaş, who has been the mayor of Hatay Metropolitan Municipality for 10 years and was in office when the earthquakes hit, was also greeted with a big protest in the area. Earthquake victims booed him and chanted "resign" slogans.
People also protested CHP Chair Özel for re-nominating Savaş for the upcoming local elections on March 31.
Hatay’da hem Sağlık Bakanı Fahrettin Koca hem de Lütfü Savaş’ı yeniden aday gösteren CHP Genel Başkanı Özgür Özel protesto edildi. pic.twitter.com/IbgKHCaZq3— Uğur Şahin (@ugur_sahin2) February 6, 2024
Former national footballer Gökhan Zan also reacted against the government officials who attended the official commemoration ceremony and shouted, "You left us to die for three days. We do not want you.”
In the afternoon, hundreds gathered with the call of February 6 Samandağ Earthquake Coordination for a march in the city.
In Hatay, at least 23,000 people lost their lives, thousands of buildings were destroyed and hundreds of thousands were left homeless.
Most of the people still live in temporary housing units despite the government's promises on rapid transfer to proper housing units.