Turkey earthquake: How a grieving mother uncovered the truth behind her son’s death

Turkey earthquake How a grieving mother uncovered the truth behind her son's death

Southern Turkey was struck by a devastating earthquake on February 6, 2023, resulting in a tragic loss of over 55,000 lives. The aftermath revealed a glaring issue: the lack of adherence to building regulations, which could have prevented many casualties. One determined mother, Nurgül Göksu, whose family perished in the collapse of a building, took it upon herself to uncover the causes behind the tragedy.

Before the earthquake, Nurgül lived a typical life as a housewife in Istanbul, enjoying her passion for cooking traditional dishes like “içli köfte.” Her eldest son, Ahmet Can Zabun, along with his wife and infant daughter, resided in Kahramanmaras. Ahmet Can, a lawyer, held a special place in Nurgül’s heart as her firstborn, whom she had supported through university.

When the earthquake struck, Ahmet Can’s residential block, the Ezgi Building, collapsed despite the surrounding area sustaining minimal damage. Desperate to find her loved ones, Nurgül rushed to Kahramanmaras, where her worst fears were confirmed eight days later when the bodies of Ahmet Can, his wife Nesibe, and their six-month-old daughter Asude were recovered from the rubble.

Determined to understand why her son’s building collapsed while others remained standing, Nurgül embarked on a quest for answers. Collaborating with civil engineers and construction experts, she delved into building regulations, seeking evidence to unravel the truth.

Nurgül’s investigation gained momentum when she discovered a BBC Turkish video documenting a similar collapse in Izmir in 2020. Seeking assistance, she reached out to the media and utilized social media platforms to gather information from other affected families and experts. Her efforts culminated in crucial evidence that shed light on violations of building regulations during the construction and subsequent alterations to the Ezgi Building.

The subsequent expert report, completed in July 2023, identified structural deficiencies and illegal alterations as contributing factors to the building’s collapse. The revelation of improper construction materials and processes further underscored the negligence that led to the tragedy.

Of particular concern was the renovation of a ground-floor cafe, which raised questions about the building’s integrity. Despite residents’ prior warnings and petitions regarding the alterations, authorities failed to address the issue, prompting Nurgül to question their accountability.

Following the report’s findings, a criminal case was initiated, leading to the arrest of individuals responsible for the building’s initial construction and subsequent alterations. However, accountability extends beyond individual actors, implicating local authorities who overlooked warnings and failed to enforce regulations.

While arrests and criminal charges are underway, Nurgül remains resolute in her pursuit of justice and accountability. Through her advocacy, she aims to prevent future tragedies by ensuring strict adherence to building regulations and holding accountable those who prioritize profit over safety.

As Nurgül continues her fight for justice, her story serves as a poignant reminder of the human cost of negligence and the importance of upholding safety standards in construction practices.