WASHINGTON, May 16 (RIA Novosti), Lyudmila Chernova – The protests raging across Turkey were caused not only by the recent Soma mine tragedy, but also by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inhuman response, Erkan Saka, an assistant professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, told RIA Novosti Friday.
“Mr. Erdogan’s reaction to the tragedy is absolutely inhuman,” said Saka, who works in the university’s School of Communication.
“Mr. Erdogan’s speech can become a unique case in the history because he listed examples of work accidents which happened in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This is a very illogical comparison,” the expert added.
Footage of Erdogan’s advisor kicking a mourner in Soma and video showing the prime minister punching a woman have also worsened relations and created greater tension, the professor said.
"I think there might be even more protests when these videos get spread. The video of the prime minister punching a woman has already been censored on YouTube in Turkey,” Saka explained.
The professor added that the owner of the mine operator has very good relations within government circles, which also adds fuel to the fire as the government is doing everything to defend themselves.
“There is a kind of criminal relationship between the government bureaucrats, ministers maybe, and the corporate structure. It does not seem to be a mere accident,” Saka said, adding that even the death toll remains unknown.
Saka also noted that mine safety regulations and their enforcement were not up to modern standards.
“It’s obvious that the minimum safe working conditions are not met. The government always states that this is an issue of destiny. And this is a very backward explanation, which, of course, angers people,” Saka said.
According to the professor, despite the human point of the events, police violence is increasing.
“It looks like the government is keen on using all the police and security forces to stop any kind of protests,” he said.
At least 282 people lost their lives in the coal mining accident that has spurred anger on the street both against those running the mine and the government itself. Police have been using tear gas and water cannons against anti-government protesters, while demonstrators are blaming the current authorities for the mining tragedy.
The accident at the Soma coal mine in western Turkey took place Tuesday. According to preliminary data, the explosion, which occurred about two kilometers (1.2 miles) below the surface Tuesday, was triggered by an electrical fault. A total of 787 people were inside the coal mine at the time.
Mine operator Soma Komur announced that about 450 miners had already been rescued, with up to 50 people possibly remaining trapped underground.