Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Addendum to the Last Entry

I must say that the response to the Van Earthquake kind of highlights both the best and the worst of society in Turkey. First, the generosity of the great majority of the country is breathtaking to behold--Kadıköy's city hall is sending supplies out by the truckloads, hundreds of volunteers are working for free, and most cities from East to West, AKP, BDP, MHP, or CHP (the four big parties) are doing the same. Every movie star, sit com face, and talk show host is holding telethons, and even the leader of the far right party (the MHP) has called on the racist comments to stop and for everyone to lend a hand. Many of the donations come with personal notes--one man wrote 'I have experienced earthquakes, too. I know what you're going through. If you need anything else, please call me anytime. DO NOT HESITATE!' And he left his number. The level of mobilization of aid is breathtaking.

At the same time there are constant allegations by people in Van that not enough is reaching them. An exhausted director of the Red Crescent last night begged patience. 'It is not such a simple thing to transfer tons of supplies from one side of the country to another! We are doing our best. They will get to the people who need them!' And I have driven the road to Van--and I do mean 'the road' as in the one decent road, and it was hard hard hard. But still there are allegations of corruption--which is where the other side of Turkish culture comes in--the same side I see at school and at every level of society. A complete lack of organization.  The BDP mayor of Van seems to think that his job is to be out 'calming people' instead of setting up aid convoys or help desks. A lot of supplies seem to be filtering off to people not in need--but rather to brothers and friends and relatives of the people in charge of them. A little bribe here, a little tea there, say 'abi' a few times and whine and beg and whatever you want can be yours--whether its a good grade you don't deserve, a visa stamp, a PhD, a football goal, or a Red Crescent tent you don't really need.

Like I said before, it looks like Katrina

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