Mass protests have been raging across Turkey since May 14, when a catastrophic mine disaster at a mine owned and operated by the Soma Kumur company took place in the city of Soma, reported to be the most deadly industrial accident in the history of Turkey.
According to news reports, an electrical fault in one of the mine's power distributors triggered an explosion of built-up methane gas, cutting off power to the ventilation systems and mine cages that are meant to bring the miners back to the surface. Fires are still raging inside the mine and rescue teams returning to the surface have reported dark and smoky conditions inside the mine, with large amounts of carbon monoxide gas. Most of the dead reportedly succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning. While the official death toll is 274, the actual figures are expected to be much higher. Hundreds of miners are still trapped inside the mine. Even as their relatives and friends are gathered around the mine in anticipation of rescue of their dear ones, the hopes of their returning alive are reported to be dwindling.
Workers all over Turkey are terribly angry with the Turkish government and its complicity with the private mine operator Soma Kumur, due to which safety of the miners was grossly neglected, in order to enhance the profits of the private company. The company is reported to have boasted of slashing coal mining costs from $140 to $23.80 per ton over the last decade since the privatization of the mine. It has refused to buy standard security equipment to monitor methane gas levels, which could have prevented this latest accident. With the complicity of some trade union leaders in the company, the Turkish government turned a blind eye to the complete lack of safety measures in the mine, and the super exploitation of the workers. It ignored the repeated accidents that had taken place in the mine.
This is the condition in most of the private operated mines in Turkey, as in many other countries. While economic conditions compel the workers to work in these extremely difficult and hazardous conditions, the mine owning companies, with the full complicity of the government, flout safety precautions most brazenly, in order to make higher profits, gravely risking the safety and health of the mine workers.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, who visited the mine along with his officials, shamelessly tried to defend the private mine operator. He referred to the deadly mine accidents as "unavoidable" and "usual things", citing examples of mine disasters in Britain nearly 2 centuries ago, long before the invention of modern safety equipment that could have prevented the accident.
Enraged protestors surrounded Erdogan, denouncing him as a murderer and demanding his resignation. Protestors also denounced the leader of the main opposition party and prevented him from entering the mine premises. Protests spread to other cities across Turkey, including Istanbul and the capital Ankara. In Istanbul, huge protests were organized in Taksim Square and outside the offices of the Soma Kumur company.
The authorities unleashed the riot police to brutally attack the protestors. Many protestors have been beaten up and kicked, while tear gas and water cannons have been used widely, to quell the protests.
The Erdogan regime in Turkey, which is widely perceived as defending the super profits of the private capitalist monopolies at the expense of the well-being of the working people, is extremely unpopular and discredited. Its brutal response to the people's protests, allegations of high-level corruption and its complicity in the US sponsored war against neighbouring Syria are being resolutely opposed by the Turkish people.