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Erdogan’s AKP: We Didn’t Start the Fire

1 5 8
02.09.2021

ISTANBUL—When a pine tree burns, according to the people of Mazikoy, a village on Turkey’s Aegean coast, it screams. Olive trees, too. As their insides burn, they let out a cry. At that point, it’s almost impossible to put the fire out.

This year, the smoke appeared above the ridges around Mazikoy on July 31. When the residents of the cove—many of them employees and owners of small hotels—saw it, they knew how quickly the dried-out pine trees buffeting the cove, baked by a record-breaking heat wave, would burn. They evacuated all their guests in the middle of the night.

“No one had any idea what was going to happen,” Cagri Tas, whose family owns the Incekum guest house in Mazikoy, told me when I visited.

ISTANBUL—When a pine tree burns, according to the people of Mazikoy, a village on Turkey’s Aegean coast, it screams. Olive trees, too. As their insides burn, they let out a cry. At that point, it’s almost impossible to put the fire out.

This year, the smoke appeared above the ridges around Mazikoy on July 31. When the residents of the cove—many of them employees and owners of small hotels—saw it, they knew how quickly the dried-out pine trees buffeting the cove, baked by a record-breaking heat wave, would burn. They evacuated all their guests in the middle of the night.

“No one had any idea what was going to happen,” Cagri Tas, whose family owns the Incekum guest house in Mazikoy, told me when I visited.

Summer vacationers lined up on the cove’s only dock, waiting for rescue boats sent by the coast guard. Around 3 a.m., they piled onto these boats with their luggage and pets—“Like Noah’s ark,” Tas said—and were taken to the nearby city of Bodrum. Locals stayed behind.

Helicopters momentarily brought the fires under control around dawn. But 9 a.m. on Aug. 1, the blaze surrounded the town on all sides.

As flames swept across the single road leading to the cove, firefighters were unable to reach the restaurants and hotels lining the beach. With electricity and water shut off, hotel owners and their families shuttled water from the sea to the flames in buckets. With the exception of eight men, who stayed behind to fight the fire, the people of Mazikoy boarded boats at 11 a.m. and headed out into the bay. Behind them, they watched flames encroach on their homes and livelihoods, the sky burnt orange and choked with smoke.

When the Tas family returned to Mazikoy on Aug. 2, the hills behind their hotel were black. So was the sea, the beach lined with ashes. The family’s property was intact, but other hotels in the cove were not so lucky.

While the local government came to clean up the remains of the burned buildings later that week, the villagers heard little from the national government beyond a condolence visit from the interior minister, Suleyman Soylu. They were left to wonder: Where had help been when they needed it? And how had these fires been allowed to cause such devastation in the first place?

The hills behind behind Mazikoy, Turkey, are seen blackened by forest fires on Aug. 6. Erin O’Brien for Foreign Policy

The Turkish government’s relief efforts for this summer’s forest fires in the country’s southern regions have been widely condemned as insufficient. Without an immediate, aggressive statewide response—and with temperatures climbing over 104 degrees Fahrenheit—the fires were able to burn more than........

© Foreign Policy


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