Fact check: False claim that Turkey earthquakes were a man-made attack on Kurdish people

The claim: Turkey earthquakes were a man-made attack on Kurdish people

A Feb. 6 Facebook post (direct link, archived link) shows a screenshot of a Truth Social post on the Feb. 6 Turkey earthquakes.

"According to a firsthand source I have in Istanbul, Turkey, this 'earthquake' is a systemic attack against Kurdish people, who are anti-Islam," reads part of the post. "This is an election year and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not want to lose power."

The Truth Social post generated over 200 likes in less than a week. An Instagram post with the same claim generated over 1,000 likes before it was deleted.

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Our rating: False

Geological experts say the earthquakes and aftershocks that struck Turkey and Syria occurred naturally on a well-known fault system from the pressure of Earth's tectonic plates. The disasters were not man-made, as the post claims.

Turkey earthquakes occurred naturally, experts say

More than 20,000 people are dead after magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes and a series of aftershocks struck Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6, as USA TODAY reported.

But contrary to the post’s claim, the earthquakes were not man-made, Rachel Abercrombie, who researches the earthquake rupture process at Boston University, told USA TODAY in an email.

"Nobody has the ability to intentionally create a large earthquake with any degree of certainty," Abercrombie said. "Various human activities – such as building large water reservoirs and fracking and waste-water injection related to hydrocarbon extraction and geothermal energy projects – can induce earthquakes, but never as large as this."

Jessica Turner, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, agreed.

"A magnitude 7.8 earthquake in Turkey that occurred on a well-known (fault) system would be really difficult to produce as humans," Turner said. "A lot of energy was released that current human activity probably isn't capable of."

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Fault zones are fractures in the Earth’s crust caused by the movement of tectonic plates, or slabs of rock that are part of the Earth's outer shell. Earthquakes occur in these zones when the buildup of pressure from the tectonic plates causes sections of the crust to "break or become displaced" releasing seismic waves, according to Caltech.

The border between Turkey and Syria lies near the Anatolian fault system, where several geologic plates interact: the African, Anatolian (where Turkey sits), Arabian and Eurasian, as USA TODAY reported.

The U.S. Geological Survey wrote in a press release that the Feb. 6 earthquakes and aftershocks occurred within the East Anatolian fault system.

"The Arabian plate is moving north towards the Eurasian plate, which is squeezing a block of crust wedged between these to the west," Jonathan Stewart, a civil and environmental engineering professor at the University of California Los Angeles, told USA TODAY. "The southern boundary of that block is the East Anatolian fault where the magnitude 7.8 (earthquake) occurred."

Deadly earthquakes have hit Turkey in the past. A 7.4 magnitude quake hit Istanbul in 1999, killing about 17,000 people, and two other major earthquakes hit in 1939 and 1999.

USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.

Lead Stories also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Turkey earthquakes occurred naturally, experts say