Social media lights up over pro-Erdogan quake-zone voters

A majority of cities affected by February’s quakes voted for the ruling AK Party, igniting a wave of criticism online.

Ayse Kekec, an earthquake survivor living in a tent with her son, stands in front of their tent with a poster of Turkish President Erdogan on it, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey May 11, 2023. REUTERS/Issam Abdallah TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Ayse Kekec, an earthquake survivor living in a tent with her son, put up a poster of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outside their front door in Kahramanmaras [Issam Abdallah/Reuters]

As the results of Turkey’s presidential election trickled in, many opposition supporters took to social media to express their anger, directing much of it at voters living in areas devastated by February’s earthquakes.

Sunday’s election ended with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan taking 49.5 percent of the vote and his main challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, getting 44.9 percent.

The majority of voters in eight of 11 cities affected by the earthquakes cast their ballots for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party) while the other three cities favoured Kilicdaroglu’s Republican People’s Party (CHP).

In the wake of the quakes, Erdogan’s government was criticised for its slow initial response to the disaster and lax enforcement of building codes. Three months later, the president’s critics could not understand why earthquake survivors would support Erdogan at the ballot box. Many used Twitter to lob insults at these voters.

Translation: “I am not saying anything to those who left, but to those who stayed in the earthquake zone, may God damn you … We are embarrassed of our humanity in their place.”

Translation: “We suffered from so much embarrassment after the earthquake. I said they could not have given it, they wouldn’t have done this, but they did. May you drown in the cries of the dead who are still under the rubble.”

Thousands tweeted comments filled with verbal assaults and threats towards voters living in the earthquake zone.

Translation: “71 percent votes to Erdogan from the earthquake zone ..?

“You burn Urfa, I’ll burn Antep”


Some users stated because of the election results, they would no longer send aid to earthquake survivors.

Translation: “I’m sorry but this was the last. No matter what, after this I will not help during any disaster. I cried for days. If they forgot that the government came 3 days later, that Kizilay sold tents and still trust AKP, I’m done.”

Translation: “I really cannot believe this. I will not be sad for most of them any more. I have strained myself so much since the earthquake so that I could do something, I became sick from sadness. They can go ask the AKP for help, there is nothing to say.”

Government’s response

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office announced it has begun an investigation into individuals who have made “provocative posts” and “created inhumane rhetoric” towards earthquake survivors, the Anadolu news agency reported.

The promises to no longer send help to the earthquake zone have already turned into action. According to Melike Hatipoglu, who said she has been personally organising relief efforts from the first day of the earthquakes, many people have cancelled their financial support for the victims.

“I don’t think my heart can take all that I have experienced in the past three days. The help for 174 orphans has been cut off. Almost 2,000 boxes of supplies have been cancelled. People asked [for me to give] back the furniture they had donated to those left homeless. They forbade the help given to kids, disabled and elderly people. I leave you all to comment.”

The backlash has carried over into government as well. On Tuesday, the Tekirdag Metropolitan Municipality announced it was terminating its temporary accommodation services to earthquake survivors.


Translation: “The CHP Tekirdag Municipality punished the earthquake victims because Kemal Kilicdaroglu could not get enough votes from the earthquake zone.

“They tried to evict citizens who were relocated to hotels in Kumbag.

“The earthquake victims said, ‘This is what you think we are worthy of because the earthquake zone voted for AK Party?'”

After the public outcry, the Tekirdag governor and Disaster and Emergency Management Authority  intervened and said they will continue providing shelter to the earthquake victims.

In response to the barrage of insults from opposition supporters on social media, videos and pictures of survivors from the earthquake zone giving back aid they received from CHP municipalities have been circulating on social media.

In one video, a victim from Elbistan in Kahramanmaras province, the earthquakes’ epicentre, said he is returning the free fertilizer he received from the CHP-run Ankara Metropolitan Municipality.

Translation: “The Nation Alliance has not made any statements condemning [the insults]. We are not without pride or dishonourable enough to use this fertilizer.”

Another victim shared with Murat Kurum, minister of environment and urbanisation, that during the earthquake he had taken a free bottle of water from an Ankara Metropolitan Municipality stand.

Translation: “I sent the money for [the water] back to Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s bank account. It was 2.50 liras [13 cents].” 

Many social media users have condemned the backlash against earthquake survivors and called on others to continue donating and providing support.

Translation: “A request, the best answer is to give to those who lost their humanity. Whichever one you trust…”

Translation: “If the result of democracy did not please us, the action to take is to increase constructive criticism, to improve the opposition. However, it is not threatening those who were affected by tragedy. Just as this country raised us, we will continue to help its children unconditionally.

“We will. Because we know that human life is above political decisions. We convey our constant support to earthquake survivors and young people who have lost their mothers. In the second round, whether my heart is fulfilled or not, I will personally organise a new aid programme.”

Erdogan’s response

Prior to the general election, both Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu campaigned in the earthquake-devastated cities. Members and leaders from their coalitions also held rallies and visited the area.

In a tweet, Erdogan denounced the negative reactions on social media.

“We are witnessing attacks that are incompatible with human values due to this mentality because they could not get votes from our citizens. These circles display all kinds of unscrupulousness, from cutting off the aid they send to the earthquake area to kicking earthquake victims out of hotels.”

Source: Al Jazeera