The deaths of so many miners after the explosion at the Soma mine in Turkey has led to both shock and sympathy from across the globe. However, as SPOT, Solidarity with People of Turkey - a solidarity organisation which I have been supporting since my visit to the Gezi Park (See: http://electmartin1.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/direngezi-report-from-our-trade-union.html ) protests last year - have made clear, this was certainly no 'natural disaster'.
SPOT explain that, just 20 days ago, a “research and investigation commission” of mining risks proposed by opposition parties was rejected by the AKP government. The Soma coalmine was recently privatized with an opening ceremony attended by the Energy and Natural Resources and Social Security Minister Taner Yildiz, who declared the coalmine as the “safest coalmine in Europe”. The directors of the company that own the mine have boasted about reducing expenses by around 60%, yet want to suggest this is just an "accident".
At the suggestion of SPOT, I have sent this letter to the Turkish President and Prime Minister this morning:
I am writing as a member of the National Executive of the National union of Teachers here in London to call on government ministers and senior officials in Turkey to launch a full independent investigation into the deaths of over 274 miners at the privately run Soma coalmine.
The deaths of the miners should not be categorised as “fate” or an “occupational hazard” as some of those who bear responsibility for this accident seem to be trying to imply. I urge you to listen to the demands of the Turkish public and international opinion, and call to account the owners of the Soma coalmine for the highly dangerous health and safety conditions that led to so many deaths.
The anger at this crime, as shown when the Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic visited Soma, is felt internationally. International comparisons with mining accidents in other nations cannot hide the facts about the life threatening working conditions in Turkey’s privately run coalmines. It is well documented that the death toll in private mines in Turkey is eleven times higher than those in state owned mines. Furthermore, the request made to the Turkish parliament on 29 April 2014 for an enquiry into the health and safety conditions at the Soma coalmine presented an opportunity to prevent this tragedy. It seems clear that the lives of thousands of miners have been risked as part of cost saving measures, with tragic consequences for miners and their families.
The Turkish government must bring to account those responsible for the brutal corporate murder of the Soma coalminers and ensure that steps are taken to improve health and safety in the mining sector with the aim of preventing such “accidents” in the future.
Member of the NUT National Executive for Inner London