Samsun,Turkey - February 06, 2023 A big Earthquake hit the east side of Turkiye. An abandoned school after earthquake

Berkay Ataseven/Shutterstock (Licensed)

What is HAARP and why are conspiracy theorists blaming it for the massive earthquake in Turkey and Syria?

'Looks like a punitive operation (HAARP) by NATO or the US.'


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Feb 7, 2023

Conspiracy theorists responded to the devastating earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria on Monday by claiming that the natural disaster was caused by the U.S. government.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake rattled both countries for roughly a minute, resulting in the known loss of at least 5,000 people so far. While most of the world looked on in horror, conspiracy theorists began alleging that a device known as HAARP was to blame.

HAARP or the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program is an ionospheric research project in Alaska funded by parts of the U.S. military as well as the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Conspiracy theorists say HAARP was designed to produce earthquakes and other natural disasters.

“The earthquake in Turkey looks like a punitive operation (HAARP) by NATO or the US against Turkey,” one user tweeted. “The video shows lightning strikes, which are not normal in earthquakes, but always happen in harp operations.”

In reality, the phenomenon, known as earthquake lights, has been well documented. Also, it remains unclear whether the flashing in the video is actually from lightning or a power grid substation being damaged during the earthquake.

Nevertheless, comments pointing the finger at HAARP spread like wildfire across social media.

“Sad to hear about the earthquake in Turkey. It’s very suspicious that there was lightning in the Sky before the disaster,” another user wrote. “If you don’t know what project HAARP is then search it up. Coincidentally when Turkey was becoming a thorn in NATO’s neck regarding Russia.”

Posts on the far-right social media site Gab also frequently mentioned HAARP as the cause of the devastating earthquake.


The conspiracy worked its way over to TikTok as well.

@collectionoffirst 🚨 Research the acronym #HAARP #DUMB #turkey #syria #earthquake #earthquakes ♬ original sound – collectionoffirst

Scientists and meteorologists, however, say that HAARP can not alter the weather, let alone cause earthquakes.

Jessica Matthews, the HAARP program manager at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, previously told USA TODAY that the frequency ranges transmitted by HAARP “are not absorbed in either the troposphere or the stratosphere—the two levels of the atmosphere that produce Earth’s weather.”

However, that doesn’t stop HAARP from being invoked whenever a natural disaster strikes. A similar earthquake in Iran was accused of being the work of the U.S. when tensions with the country were high.

But while conspiracy theorists are busy online, the situation on the ground in Turkey and Syria continues to worsen. The World Health Organization has warned that the number of casualties could eventually surpass 20,000.

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*First Published: Feb 7, 2023, 8:09 am CST