Death toll of Turkey building collapse rises

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to residents as he visits the site of a collapsed building in Istanbul, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 10 February 2019
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Death toll of Turkey building collapse rises

  • The apartment building collapsed in Istanbul's Kartal District on Feb. 9

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s interior minister says the death toll from a collapsed apartment building in Istanbul has risen to 21.

Minister Suleyman Soylu spoke late Saturday, saying those who made “mistakes” would be held accountable. The eight-story building in the city’s Kartal district collapsed on Wednesday.

Thirteen people pulled from the rubble have been hospitalized and seven remain in intensive care. Chief Doctor Recep Demirhan says that two are in very serious condition, according to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency.

Turkey’s president on Saturday visited the scene of the apartment building collapse in Istanbul for the first time, saying there were “many lessons to learn.”

The cause of Wednesday’s tragedy is under investigation but officials have said the top three floors of the eight-story building in the Kartal district were built illegally.

“In this area, we have faced a very serious problem with illegal businesses like this done to make more money,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters at the scene. He said the government would take “steps in a determined way” after investigators complete their work.

Erdogan was also visiting a hospital where more than a dozen people are being treated. Seven of them are in serious condition.

Friends and relatives waited near the wreckage for news of their missing loved ones as emergency teams, aided by sniffer dogs, worked around the clock to reach possible survivors.

Officials have not disclosed how many people are still unaccounted for. The building had 14 apartments with 43 registered residents. 

The collapse fanned criticism of a government amnesty granted last year to people accused of illegal building — a measure announced ahead of municipal elections this March.

Engineers and architects regularly sound the alarm against illegal additional storeys to buildings which they say weaken the constructions’ structure, and put them at greater risk in the event of an earthquake.


What led to the genocide of Armenians by the Ottomans

Updated 43 min 49 sec ago
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What led to the genocide of Armenians by the Ottomans

  • Regional affairs expert explains the reasons behind the carnage
  • The Ottoman Empire was known during the 19th and early 20th centuries as the sick man of Europe

RIYADH: Eyad Abu Shakra, a Middle East specialist, said there were three things that needed to be considered when researching how the Ottoman Empire handled Armenia during the First World War. Approaching the subject in this way made it possible to understand the violent repression of non-Muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire, especially the Armenians.

Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Abu Shakra said the first point was related to Armenian history and heritage. They were among the first people to convert to Christianity, which was the dominant religion in Anatolia prior to Islam. The majority of Armenians belong to the Armenian Orthodox Church, which is one of the oldest churches in the world. It was founded in the first century A.D. by St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, two of Jesus Christ’s disciples.

Abu Shakra said the second point was related to the “Eastern question,” a reference to the final decades of the Ottoman Empire and the mounting pressure it faced from European powers that were competing to carve out their own territories.

He said the historical roots of the Eastern question dated back to the 16th century, when Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and Emperor Francis I reached an understanding by which France was granted special status as protector of the non-Muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire, which was at the time at the height of its power.

But what started as a generous grant bestowed by a powerful state in the 16th century, became in the 19th century a tool of European pressure, and impositions from Christian powers on a weakened Ottoman state. This imbalance was reflected in the military losses of the Ottomans at the hands of the Europeans.

The Ottoman Empire was known during the 19th and early 20th centuries as the sick man of Europe. 

The worst setbacks were during the Russo-Ottoman war of 1768-1774, when the Ottoman Empire lost territories in the northern Black Sea region. The Ottoman decline climaxed by the end of the 19th century, when they lost much of the Balkans to separatist Serbs and Bulgarians.

“The Eastern question was finally answered after the First World War with the total collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which was forced to sign the Treaty of Sevres and then the Treaty of Lausanne. It gave up its claims to the Balkans and the Middle East. New states came into existence, such as Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey which was established in Anatolia, Istanbul and the Straits, while other territories came under direct rule of the allied victors,” said Abu Shakra.

The third point, according to Abu Shakra, lay in the Ottoman reforms that started during the reign of Sultan Abdul Majid I and continued until the First World War in 1914. For a long time the Ottoman Empire occupied swathes of territory across the continents of the ancient world. It included diverse populations and religions and this great power had an influential role in world politics. However, from the 18th century onward it became a decaying power.

The European powers, on the other hand, were on the rise despite their rivalries. So while the Ottoman state bureaucracy and military deteriorated, its army suffered from defeats in various wars that it fought on various fronts, draining the empire’s resources. 

These defeats made the Ottoman intelligentsia consider going through reforms to save whatever could be saved and modernize the empire.  This reform movement made important achievements, but it was argued by conservatives that the internal fabric could not withstand the pace of reforms. This tension became a pretext for questioning the validity of the reforms which increased the confidence of non-Muslims (including Armenians), non-Turks (especially Arabs), who started to have a growing sense of identity. This friction was encouraged by the European powers, who had been interfering in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire.

As a result, Sultan Abdul Hamid II came to power representing the conservative nationalist line, which was apathetic to the aspirations of non-Turks, especially the European ones. Although Abdul Hamid was removed from power after 30 years, the theater was prepared for the “Armenian Genocide” during the years of the First World War.