It Is not True that the Earthquake in Turkey Is Unnatural

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A powerful earthquake of 7.8 degrees on the Richter scale struck Southern Turkey early Monday morning. It caused extensive damage and killed thousands of people there, but also in neighbouring Syria. Soon after the earthquake, the social networks were spreading conspiracy theories claiming that the earthquake was not an act of nature. This fact-checked story is one of those claims. Not only does it claim falsely that the earthquake was unnatural, but it also spreads untruthworthy stories about Turkey leaving NATO and EU accession talks to join the BRICS

A few hours after the devastating earthquake in Turkey, the social networks became the place for sharing false information and inciting conspiracy theories about the reasons for the earthquake. One such theory was published on Facebook, claiming that the earthquake was not natural, but provoked by some kind of political events. This information is not true.

Condolences to Turkey and Syria, but the earthquake seemed unnatural. Is it because Turkey is joining the BRICS and leaving NATO and EU accession talks, or… am I a conspiracy theorist again? says the post.

Early Monday morning a powerful earthquake struck Southern Turkey causing extensive damage and killing thousands of people there and in neighbouring Syria. The earthquake was 7.8 degrees on the Richter scale and it occurred at 4:17 a.m. local time, according to the US Geological Institute. It was also felt in Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus. Several hours after the earthquake, a tremble of 7.5 degrees followed as well as numerous smaller aftershocks.

Rescue teams are searching the ruins of buildings looking for survivors in conditions of very low winter temperatures and power and water outages.

Soon after the earthquake, the social networks were spreading conspiracy theories claiming that the earthquake was not a cause of nature. The story subject of this fact-check is one of those publications – not only does it falsely claim that the earthquake was not natural, but it also spreads untrue contents about Turkey leaving NATO and EU accession talks to join BRICS.


What caused the earthquake?

Turkey is in a hot-spot for earthquakes.

Three tectonic platesArabian, Anadolian and African platesmeet in this region. As they slide and push against each other, they create friction and stress which is released in the form of an earthquake, explains Yareb Altavel, seismologist in the National Information Center for Earthquakes in Colorado.

The Arabian plate is moving North with the speed of approximately 11 milimetres (something less than half an inch) per annum, says Stephen Hicks, seismologist of the university college in London. For that reason, Turkey, which is on the Anadolian plate, is pressed towards the West. That movement means that Turkey has two major spots from where earthquakes originate from: North Anadolian, 930 miles long and East Anadolian, more than 300 miles long.

Seyhun Puskulcu, a seismologist and coordinator of the Turkish Earthquake Foundation from Istanbul, says that people in Turkey are very much aware of their vulnerabilty to earthquakes and that this particular earthquake is not a surprise.

Although the reasons for the devastating earthquake – which is not the first in Turkey – are well known, not surprising and its orgin is based on scientific explanation, nevertheless that does not prevent social network users to spread conspiracy theories.

Atlantic Council warns about the ever-growing number of publications on social networks sharing conspiracy theories about possible “artificial” features of the disaster and that apparently, that was happening for the purpose of weakening Turkey following the increased tensions with its Western allies.

These malign efforts to influence public perception about the tragedy should be taken seriously, reports the Atlantic Council in its analysis.

Theories that the HAARP-system caused the earthquake were also publicly disseminated. They were quickly denied by Turkish experts saying that such claims were ”the most foolish thing that they had heard in their lives”.

Such a thing is impossible and not scientifically based, stated Ahmet Ercan, geo-physicist from the Faculty on ITU.

Regarding the second part of the post referring to the alleged “political reasons” for the earthquake, there a several pieces of disinformation and speculation.

The post claims that Turkey will “join the BRICS”, but that is not true. In the last few years, Turkey expressed interest to join the BRICS, which was confirmed a few months ago by the President of the International Forum of the organization, Purnima Anand, who revealed that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt were planning to officially join the BRICS and that they were preparing to apply. That, however, is far from formal membership.

The claim that Turkey is leaving NATO is also not true. Such a decision is neither made nor contemplated.

Ankara is not thinking of withdrawing from NATO, stated Omer Celik, spokesperson of the Party for Justice and Development (AK) of the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once the public speculations started two weeks ago.

We face theses kinds of things every election round (calls for discontinuing Turkish membership in NATO). Those are not things that we need to worry about. Those calling for dicontinuing Turkey’s NATO membership make no sense. This is out of the question! We are one of the founding countries of NATO. They have no right to claim such a thing. What they are saying is sheer luxury for NATO, he said in an interview for CNN Turk.

Concerning the accession talks with the European Union, it is not true that Turkey is leaving them, but that they are at a standstill point.

A few months ago, the Union stressed its concern for the human rights, tensions in the Eastern Mediteranean and the neutral position of Turkey towards Ukraine that stand in the way of advancement of membership. The last report on the progress made by the country says that Turkey is a key partner in the areas such as migration and fight against terrorism, but also that the country is pulling away from the standards necessary for EU membership. Turkey is a EU acceding country since 1999, but accession talks have been at a standstill point for years. That, however, does not mean that Turkey has terminated accession talks as claimed by the post.

Due to all of the listed facts, we assess the claim that the earthquake in Turkey was unnatural and that Turkey left NATO and EU accession talks as untrue.





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