Conflict & Justice

Why Turkish protesters are blaming their government for a major mining disaster

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Credit: Osman Orsal/Reuters

A miner hugs a relative in front of a coal mine in Soma, Turkey, after the country's worst mining accident in more than two decades.

Throngs of grief-stricken protesters have gathered outside the main hospital in the Turkish city of Soma, the site of a massive mining accident that has taken more than 270 lives.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

"The mood here is full of frustration and grief," says the BBC's Selin Girit in Soma. "Earlier I was at a hospital where the injured are being treated and I saw 15-year-old youngsters protesting against the government, calling for its resignation and chanting slogans like, 'It will be your turn if you stay quiet now.'"

Some of the demonstrators were looking for loved ones still missing after the explosion and fire at the mine. Others were there to protest the government's mining safety record.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey visited the mine Wednesday and promised a thorough investigation of the incident which was touched off by the explosion of a power unit more than a mile underground. He said all of Turkey shares in the pain of this disaster - an emotion he called "the pain of 77 million."

But Erdogan's address was called "tone deaf" by some Turks on social media. Many were unimpressed with his declaration that "accidents happen" and his comparison of the Soma accident to mining tragedies in England in 1862.

"That kind of attitude probably was the main reason of the frustration and the protests that took place today," Girit says.

In April, opposition parties in Turkey's parliament called for an investigation into safety regulations at the Soma mines. But the proposal was rejected by Prime Minister Erdogan's AKP party.

"The people here know about that," Girit says. "They want more, they expect more from the government, now that over 240 people have lost their lives."

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