Victims of earthquake in Van forced to migrate

The villagers who suffered from the earthquake in Başkale, province of Van, last February are forced to migrate.

Ten people lost their lives in the villages of Kaşkol, Güvendik, Özpınar and Gelenler in Başkale, province of Van as a result of the 5.9-magnitude earthquake that shook the area on 23 February. The epicentre was in the city of Khoy (Xoy) in Eastern Kurdistan, and substantial material damage occurred also in North Kurdistan.

The earthquake victims were left alone and almost forgotten, lost in the coronavirus pandemic process. While the survivors, who have not been given any support since the earthquake, still stay in tents, many are forced to leave the village.

State officials visited the affected areas and rejected the proposal of earthquake victims to build houses on their own, and demanded that the remaining houses be demolished. Villagers do not want to demolish their houses for now, also in light of the nearing winter season. While earthquake survivors oppose the demolition decision taken by TOKI, the officials told the victims to ‘go to Van and get relatives to put you up’.

Villagers who did not want to leave their villages were faced with a new development in the past week. It turned out that the villagers who submitted a petition to the district governorship not to demolish their houses were made AKP members without their knowledge. This had happened before when people applying to aid money for the pandemic were also made AKP members without their knowledge.

Providing information on the subject, the earthquake victims said that the AKP government has negotiated with them. On the other hand, the villagers said that they told government officials that they themselves would rebuild their houses but these suggestions were rejected by saying "You cannot act on your own". Villagers were then asked to leave temporarily. Earthquake victims said: “We will not leave our villages. These are our ancestral lands. We don't want TOKI. We have our homes, some of them destroyed, some of them damaged. We want to repair and build our new houses ourselves.”

Speaking to the ANF about the issue, HDP Van Provincial co-chair Ökkeş Kava said that the AKP made everyone who applied for aid during the epidemic process a member of the AKP. Stating that what was done to earthquake victims is a continuation of this policy, Kava said: “People's homes are demolished, people do not have another place to stay in most cases and their animals are not sheltered. The AKP is trying to gain membership by co-opting the victim name lists. They did not deliver any aid there this year, they personally told the villagers this. Once again the AKP wants to turn victims into an opportunity.”

Defending that the policy implemented for earthquake victims in Başkale is the central policy of emptying the region, Kava said: “The delegation we formed last week visited the earthquake area and met with the earthquake victims. A dirty policy is being carried out here. The policy of emptying that region is sought to be implemented. The AKP said to the villagers they would demolish the houses they will build. The AKP is not interested in people’s problems they just see them as an opportunity to make their membership growing by cheating them into being members, including without telling them. Which is why some of our executives and members have found themselves to suddenly be AKP members.”