Guest Post by İlke Şanlıer Yüksel
Over the last few years, Border Crossings has been working with partners in Southern Turkey, and particularly the city of Adana. Only last week, we were in Germany with colleagues from Adana's Çukurova University. Today we received this letter from one of them. With her blessing, we reproduce it in full.
February 10, 2023
Dear friends, colleagues and comrades,
Thank you all very much for your messages of support. My name is İlke Şanlıer Yüksel. I am an associate professor at the Department of Radio, Cinema and Television at Çukurova University, Adana, Turkey. I haven't slept for days, so forgive me if my English is not perfect. I don't need to tell you the gravity of the situation here, you will already have seen the news images, and I know are already doing all that you can: but believe me, the experience of actually being here is unimaginable. Maraş and Hatay - these two cities have been levelled to the ground. The destruction is so immense that I am not sure if there is even the slightest possibility of reconstruction.
Adana, the city where I live, was the least affected, but even here one third of the multi-storey buildings in the Çukurova district (population 360 thousand) were heavily damaged. It is impossible to enter the houses. This area is known as North Adana. The ex-mayor Aytaç Durak, who served for more than 20 years, opened this area for rapid construction at high profit. Almost all of the buildings date from after the 1999 earthquake and the resulting regulations, but they were clearly not built in accordance with those regulations. Sarıçam district, which also grew in the last 7-8 years under MHP ex-mayor Hüseyin Sözlü, has high-rise buildings and is in a similar situation. There are brand new buildings, still with PVC coatings on the windows and no people living in them, and they are cracked down the middle. This is the direct result of systemic corruption on an immense scale. Everyone in Adana is on the streets as there are warnings of another earthquake. An incredible number of buildings are damaged. There is no end to this dishonesty.
In the face of institutional incompetence, our students and graduates are trying to organise their own ways to bring aid. For example, Samandağ, Hatay’s district, still cannot be reached by land. There is no electricity, no fuel. Supplies are exhausted, and there is no drinkable water. They carry water, supplies, and power banks to Samandağ by boat from Adana Karataş. Yesterday, we tired to get permission from the Coast Guard; luckily we got permission, they will also deliver diesel oil by boat so that people can find a way to get out with vehicles. Isn't this extraordinary and awful? The state should be able to evacuate people by ship, but here it falls to a small group of young people. My student Ümit from Samandağ has been digging up dead bodies by hand for days. He is not allowed to bury them, because the prosecutor is supposed to come and identify the bodies, and so far has not made it there.
We've been giving everything we have in aid for days. The suppliers we know in Adana are distributing the goods in their warehouses. A group of my friends from the faculty are trying to supply baby nappies and formula milk to Adana City Hospital and the Faculty of Medicine. This is one of the less damaged cities, where we are told the health system is functioning perfectly. My sister has not slept for days, she cooks for people who have not been able to go home for days. My brother-in-law is a civilian search and rescue worker, working in the rubble in İskenderun and Hatay.
One of our colleagues in the department went into her damaged house to collect some belongings, and the house collapsed on her in the second earthquake. Fortunately, she was rescued, but now she has no home. Today, we got the news that one of our student’s and his family’s bodies were removed from that collapsed building on the fifth day. Almost all of our students are working class people from poorer families in Adana and the neighbouring provinces. Dozens of them have lost their homes and families: some have lost their lives. We don't know yet if the dormitories are in a condition to provide shelter. We don’t know whether we’ll be able to start the semester at some point.
Yesterday, two of my students called from Hatay. They don't have even a lira in their pockets: there are no ATMs, no banks, not even the municipality building, which has collapsed. Pervin, another student, is blind, and her mother has a severe chronic heart disease. Her father used to bring Pervin to school every day and pick her up in the evening. For 4 days, we have repeatedly contacted search and rescue, we have found solutions, we have been to the wreckage many times, but the rescuers could not enter the wreckage because they did not have working machines. Last night Pervin’s father's body was found.
Today I am writing to you in response to Pervin's cry: "I beg you, teacher, I beg you, bring my father to me". Pervin is just one of the young ones who are affected. There are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of children and young people in this situation.
I don't know how to bear this pain.
I wanted to tell you why I wrote this, both to pour my heart out in a safe place and to tell you that this road will be so long and that help will be needed for years to come. That's why your messages of support are very valuable to us. I am not asking for anything today, but there will be times when we, personally, can’t keep up anymore, and so then I will ask. I am very, very sad, angry, and enraged. Most of all, I am sorry for the remorse I feel because I am worried about the future of my own child and my nephew, while all this is happening.
If you would like to support grassroots initiatives to help with the earthquake, then click here for one. We can vouch for this fundraiser being entirely transparent and free from corruption.