HAARP, geopolitics and other fantasies: What was made up about the earthquake in Turkey and Syria


The recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria has shown us that disinformation has no borders and that it spreads even in the most difficult moments of humanity. Although more than 50,000 people died, and everyone sent help as much as they could, not even 24 hours had passed since the disaster, and social networks were abuzz with disinformation and conspiracy theories.

“The magic light”

The most common disinformation was about the light. Users of social networks and on-duty disinformers ask – what kind of “magical” light appeared at the moment of the earthquake. Then came theories that some kind of seismic weapon or HAARP was used, hence the flash. This theory is refuted by decades of research.

HAARP is a project that studies the ionosphere and according to scientists – it cannot cause an earthquake. Light during earthquakes is not an unknown phenomenon. Earlier, similar phenomena were recorded during earthquakes in Mexico, Canada, Peru, and Italy. One of the theories is that it represents electrical discharges during seismic activity.

In its text, Raskrikavanje demystified the claim of Romanian MP Diana Iovanovici Sosoak, who blamed the disaster on the notorious HAARP system. As Raskrikavanje established, experts from the University of Alaska who take care of the HAARP system “state on their website that HAARP ‘operates’ in the high layer of the ionosphere and that it does not influence the weather conditions on Earth that take place in the lower layers of the atmosphere – the troposphere and stratosphere”, that is, that it does not affect the Earth’s crust, where earthquakes occur. Raskrikavanje also draws attention to the fact that earthquakes can be artificially induced, but notes that experts in the field of geophysics have explained that the energy released during the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria “is not capable of being produced by current human activity”.

Some social media users went a step further and attributed the beam of light from the launch of the Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to the moment before the earthquake in Turkey. After a quick search, we came to the conclusion that the video was made in September 2022, in the Kazakh town of Balkhash.

Disinformation about the side effects of the earthquake also circulated. It was claimed that sinkholes, which also appeared in Croatia after the earthquake, were the result of an “artificial factor”.

Recycling of old videos and photos

Another recycling came to us from Japan, originating in 2011. Users of social networks shared a video showing cars that are strongly shaking. A strong earthquake was in effect, but not in Turkey, as claimed. The video was created in Tokyo, during the catastrophic earthquake that led to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima.

The earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria were felt throughout neighbouring countries. A tsunami warning was even issued in Italy. But if social media users and a video that went viral are to be believed, the tsunami has already hit the coasts of Turkey and Syria. That’s not true. The video showing the tidal waves was made in 2017 in Durban, South Africa. The media reported that the beaches in that city were closed due to high waves, which were most likely caused by a cyclone near the coast of Madagascar.

This was not the only fictional tsunami. FakeNews Tragac noted on the first day following the earthquake that a dozen web portals from our speaking area reported that after the earthquake Turkey was hit by a devastating tsunami, which was accompanied by a video of the alleged tsunami. However, the said recording existed on the Internet since 2018 and was created in Indonesia after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, not in Turkey.

Some of the disinformation was not aimed at convincing the public of conspiracy theories but was focused on gathering likes. Thus, many, knowingly or unknowingly, used old photographs to evoke empathy. One of them shows Trion, a dog that participated in a rescue operation during a landslide in the American state of Washington.

The other shows a dog standing in the ruins, while a human hand can be seen next to it. A reverse search reveals that it is a stock photo, which can be downloaded from one of the subscription sites. The same photo was used several times in previous years.

Geopolitical fantasies

Before the earthquake, several consulates of Western countries in Turkey were closed. The authorities of those countries have warned of the danger of attacks, which could be the result of complex political relations related to the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO. This was preceded by the burning of the Koran in Sweden, to which the Turkish authorities reacted vigorously. Individuals tried to put the consulate shutdown in the context of knowing that the earthquake was going to happen.

Similarly, there was disinformation that the earthquake happened just a few days after the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said that his country would leave NATO. Erdogan did not say that, on the contrary. His cabinet expressed support for the Alliance.

Social media users see a conspiracy theory in the arrival of an American warship in Istanbul the day before the earthquake, even though it was a regular visit.

There have also been claims that the Turkish Stream gas pipeline has been damaged or destroyed, but there is no official information about this, and that Europe will be left without energy sources because the North Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines starting from Russia were damaged in explosions, which is still being investigated.

There were talks about alleged sabotage, and that energy supplies from Azerbaijan, Qatar and Iran cannot now reach EU countries. For now, there is no information about the interruption of the flow of energy products from those countries through Turkey, although, as expected, their transportation was difficult.

On social networks, followers of the QAnon conspiracy theory have ”offered” the thesis about the destruction of fictitious underground tunnels of the “deep state” to explain the cause of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. In these tunnels, the world cabal allegedly exploits children to obtain the drug for rejuvenation – “adrenochrome”, and according to their claims, such tunnels in Turkey and Syria were destroyed and this is actually the cause of earthquakes – and deaths of tens of thousands of people. These are completely fabricated allegations.

Seismic weapons and the “prophet” Hoogerbeets

One of the common disinformation associated with earthquakes is that they can be predicted. Faktograf.hr exposed the incorrect claim that diplomatic missions of Western countries closed their consulates before the Turkish earthquake because, as it is falsely claimed, they knew in advance that the earthquake would happen.

Science also cannot predict with certainty where and when an earthquake will occur. Nevertheless, the Dutchman Frank Hoogerbeets allegedly predicted the disaster and found himself on the pages of all the world’s media. Hoogerbeets had made predictions before, but the media called him a “mystic”. At the same time, there is no more information about this man in any relevant professional magazine.