Thank you to all friends who reached out over the last few days to check in on my family and friends. My family and friends are relatively okay but the country is not. This is one of the worst natural disasters that Turkey and Syria have faced over the last century. We, Turks, are a very communicative society and you reaching out truly means a lot.
I am also very grateful to Japanese friends and foreign friends living in Japan who all sent the kindest messages, offered to help (and even visited the Turkish Embassy for donations) and know unfortunately all too well the emotional pain and the physical damage that an earthquake of this magnitude can cause. When they reach out, I can sense the emotional pain that they still carry due to the many earthquakes that hit Japan including the 2011 Great Japan East Earthquake. I can only wish that we – as a Turkish society – can be as resilient and as determined in our efforts to rebuild the region as our Japanese friends.
I last year visited Iwate (one of the prefectures most impacted by the Japan 2011 earthquake) for Japan Reconstruction Agency to write about the admirable recovery efforts and knew deep in my heart that the day would soon come for us but I – as we Turks tend to do – resorted to the fatalistic approach for a temporary peace of mind. As a country which sits on top of major seismic fault lines, I do not know anyone in Turkey who has not been in some way impacted by an earthquake. My own hometown was hit by the great 1999 earthquake leading to 18.000 fatalities when I was 19. The night of the earthquake was the last time that I saw the home where I grew up in. But I do not think that I truly developed an understanding of the idea of living with the reality of earthquake until I moved to Japan – 20 years later. As one publication once put it – for some countries, the risk of earthquakes “is not a matter of what if, but a matter of when“. So both on governmental and individual level, we have a long way to go. But today, the pain is real and the help is much needed.
Rescue and recovery efforts
Many international governmental and non-governmental support teams are already in Turkey alongside the Turkish government and the well established civil organisations. Although there are some miracles with news of people being rescued alive after days of being under the rubble, the efforts are currently put into taking care of the people living in the region and finding them shelter and food. The harsh winter conditions add another layer of complexity. There are calls for volunteers to not visit the area as there is currently no shortage of helping hands. The on-site help will be more meaningful after this initial shock and during the long road to recovery.
I will for the time being set aside our growing frustration with the government reaction and the lack of preparatory efforts and the shame of having to rely on external support for a natural event which was unfortunate but not unforeseeable. For all who have been asking, these are links to some of the most organized and effective organizations currently leading the rescue efforts in Turkey and/or support the survivors and which are all open to donations. There are all organisations that over the years proved to be very effective, very well organized and trustworthy.
AHBAP – Anatolia People and Peace Platform (a highly organized and well established local NGO):
AKUT – Search and Rescue Association (highly experienced local NGO specialized in rescue missions)
MOZAIK – Turkey MOZAIK Foundation (UK based charity organisation established by Turks living in the UK)