Friday, 4 November 2011


...or putting too much faith in Allah.

How many times have I mentioned the way the Turks put too much faith in Allah?  The way the majority drive like lunatics, believing that if they have an accident, it's not down to bad's all in the hands of Allah.  The way they don't worry about everyday problems, because they believe they have no control over their own lives.

This isn't an anti-muslim or anti-religious post.  I'm not out to disrespect peoples' faith.  But having read the following article in the New York Times today, it just confirms my belief that the people of this country bury their heads in the sand, and prefer not to take some responsibility for their own destinies:

Recipe for Disaster in Turkey’s Quake Zone

Published: November 2, 2011

Sifting through the rubble of the apartment house in which his sister died, along with her husband, her young son and five other members of her husband’s family, in the earthquake in the town of Ercis last week, a young seismologist recalled his futile warnings about the safety of the building.

.“I told them to have it tested” for earthquake safety, Muhlis Unaldi, a Boston University student of seismology, told the Milliyet newspaper, referring to the four-story apartment building the Nalbantoglu family built a few years ago.

“But they did not have it done,” he said.

Now, he added, he could see from the rubble that the wrong kind of iron bars had been used to reinforce the concrete. When a 7.2-magnitude quake struck on Oct. 23, the building folded in on itself, leaving no survivors among those inside it.

More than 600 people were crushed to death in the quake and more than 2,600 injured. It was only the latest of more than 220 strong earthquakes that have rocked Anatolia over the past century, killing some 100,000 and injuring half a million, according to government figures.

Yet, in their lack of concern about building standards in the house they poured their savings into and entrusted their lives to, the Nalbantoglus were no exception in Turkey.

Two out of three buildings in Turkey are illegally constructed without permits or supervision, according to the national chamber of mechanical engineers.

Of the 18 million buildings in the country, 40 percent are not earthquake-safe, the chamber estimates in a comparatively conservative assessment — some experts guess that share to be as high as 70 or even 90 percent.

Greed and incompetence on the part of builders, as well as corruption and a lack of oversight by authorities, are the usual suspects cited in the public debate that breaks out after every quake, only to fizzle out again without noticeable effect after a few weeks.

Yet, even with builders after killer profit and many municipal authorities on the take, the question remains: Why do Turkish homeowners and tenants put up with it?

A survey conducted by the Anar polling institute found in 2005 that, at 56 percent, more than half of Turks deemed their houses unsafe in an earthquake, while 13 percent had doubts about their home’s resilience. Yet, in the same survey, 81 percent admitted they had never done anything about it.

A study conducted by Erzincan University found that 73 percent of respondents in the province did not know whether their current house was safe or not — despite the fact that most of them had experienced at least one of the Erzincan quakes that killed 650 in 1992 and 33,000 in 1939.

So why do millions of Turkish families, like the Nalbantoglus of Ercis, agree to live in slipshod buildings on top of an earthquake fault line, without calling in so much as a safety inspection?

Poverty and inadequate legislation are frequently pointed to, but some experts believe the problem is a cultural one.

“Fatalism is deeply embedded in the culture of Anatolia,” a sociologist, Yusuf Ozkan Ozburun, said in an interview in Istanbul last week.

“It is a feature of local folk Islam, caused by a false understanding of Islam” under which man has no influence on a world controlled by God alone, Mr. Ozburun said.

His analysis is backed up by an international comparison of religious influences on cultural attitudes conducted by the Sabanci University of Istanbul in 2009.

In it, the political scientists Ersin Kalaycioglu and Ali Carkoglu found that only 28 percent of Turks believe they can influence the course of their lives — the lowest percentage of respondents in 30 countries considered in the study. Catholic countries like Poland and the Philippines scored closest to Turkey in the survey, which included no other predominantly Muslim country. In the United States, by contrast, more than 80 percent believe that man forges his own destiny, and in Japan almost 60 percent agree with that view.

The emerging picture of Turkey is one of “a society in which fatalism and a perception that life is shaped mainly by metaphysical forces are widely shared,” the scientists concluded.

.In a similar vein, an Istanbul University survey of 1,100 survivors living in tent cities after the catastrophic 1999 Marmara quake revealed that more than two-thirds saw the quake as an act of God, fate or destiny, rather than as a natural disaster, with more than half convinced that it was an intentional punishment by God.

Consequently, most Turks rely mainly on prayer for protection against earthquakes and other disasters, as the Sabanci University study found.

“This fatalism, deeply rooted in the collective consciousness, leads to the inertia and inaction we see in Turkish society,” Mr. Ozburun said.

An incurious attitude and an unscientific mind-set are also among the national characteristics engendered in Turkish society by its deep-rooted fatalism, he added, pointing out that the Turkish word for “wonder” or “curiosity” carries a negative connotation and citing a slew of fatalist Turkish proverbs.

“It came like this and it will go like this,” is one of those adages of resignation to fate.

“Citizens do worry about earthquake safety, and rightly so, but they dither between fatalism and negligence,” Tugrul Tankut, a professor of civil engineering at Middle Eastern Technical University, told a symposium on “Turkey’s Earthquake Reality” in Ankara last year.

In addition, a tradition of authoritarian relations between citizens and the state had led Turks to rely too much on the state instead of taking initiative for their own safety, he said.

“No one says ‘My roof is leaking, the state must come and fix it,”’ Mr. Tankut said. “But when it comes to earthquake safety, people sit and wait, saying ‘My house is not quake-safe, the state must come and retrofit it.’

“There’s no difference between the two, yet that’s the way people see it, for whatever reasons.”

Nor can lack of funds, sometimes cited as an explanation for widespread acquiescence in shoddy housing, be a viable reason, the professor said, pointing out that earthquake safety measures add no more than 3 to 5 percent to the cost of construction of a house.

“People are always asking me: ‘Professor, when will buildings be earthquake safe?”’ he told the Ankara symposium. “The answer to that is very simple: This problem will be solved as soon as people are prepared to spend as much money on their safety as they spend on pink bathroom tiles.”

As for the building laws and regulations that are once again under public scrutiny and debate after the Van earthquake, many experts do not think tinkering with them will fix the problem.

Most people were unconcerned even with existing regulations, preferring to trust that God would protect them even as they built shoddy housing in unsuitable areas, Mr. Ozburun, the sociologist, said.

Mr. Tankut, the engineer, takes a similar view. “As long as the mentality remains the same, you can change the rules and the system as much as you like,” he told the Ankara symposium. “But in practice nothing will change at all.”



  1. We all have to take responsibility for our lives..... that is why we have brains.
    Very sad to think that some people believe that they are in the hands of fate.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  2. I do believe in God and believes he has a plan for all of us, but at the same time I believe he gave us a brain so that we can to our best abilities avoid disaster. Maybe blaming God or saying it was God's plan is a way for poor countries to deal with daily life. Though it still doesn't make sense to me.

  3. Maggie: It is sad because so many tragedies could be avoided.

    Kelleyn: I'm not religious, but it still doesn't make any sense to me either.

  4. It's enough to make one weep, Ayak. So much unnecessary suffering.

  5. Absolutely Perpetua. Sadly I don't think attitudes will change.

  6. The fatalism drives me crazy. So many studies have been done on it, from every angle and in every cultural sector, comparing East and West in terms of how much control people think they have in their lives.

    The other side of fatalism, though, is plain old superstition. People think that by preparing for an earthquake or talking too much about earthquakes, you're inviting a big earthquake. It's kind of the opposite of fatalism, believing your thoughts and words can cause the earth to shift.

    A lot of people, it would seem, think they don't even have control over their own behavior and will happily blame everyone and everything except themselves before accepting the consequences of their stupid decisions. I'm thinking now of students who fail a course from non-attendance, but believe they failed because the teacher didn't like them. Same goes for when they get a good grade, though-- they thank the teacher and never take credit for their own good work.

    A friend of mine knew a woman who was working with some Istanbul belediye people who got some Japanese engineers over to inspect the city for earthquake safety in case there was a big one. Following the inspection, they asked the engineers what they should do, and the engineers said, "Buy lime, and lots of it."

    I think about that a lot.

  7. Hi Stranger: Hmm..the engineer's comment does indeed make you think.

    The superstition annoys me a much as the fatalism. So many silly superstitions are carried on from one generation to the next, and surprisingly even amongst the better educated Turks. I have to bite my tongue sometimes to stop myself saying "oh for goodness don't really believe that rubbish do you?"


I love getting comments, but don't feel obliged...I'm just happy you're reading my blog.

Posts are moderated to avoid spam, so if you post under "Anonymous",leave your name at the end of your comment so that I know it's a "real" person!.

If you would like to help my rescue dogs and the strays (dogs and cats) of our village and local industrial estate, please email me for details at Thankyou x