After three years full of crises caused by the wave of refugees from Syria, the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the economic crisis with the resulting inflation and bomb attacks in Istanbul and now the earthquake in the east of the country, I am back in Turkey and at TIAFI swept in Tepecik, İzmir. In 2020 I was here for the last time; Covid-19 prevented my quicker return. I am happy to see Anne, Derya, Anwar and Bilal again and finally to get to know Zeynep.
Ahmet has finally made it and received enough donations to travel to Canada with his family.
I will now be here for a few days and, as part of Avicenna Kultur- und Hilfswerk e.V., maintain our long-standing partnership and friendship. And of course helping where I can.
The crises have hit the center of TIAFI hard. Due to the curfew during the Corona crisis, the building had to remain closed for months and people could only be cared for on the street or at home. And now, more than ever, refugees from abroad and now also from home are looking for help here.
About forty to seventy new families register for help and supplies each day. Earthquake victims receive blankets and packages with food and other everyday necessities. These are Turks, Iraqis and Syrians living in Turkey who have survived the horrors of their own country.
Supply packages are packed and provided. Other poor people also try to get hold of such packages and have to be sent away. You will soon get something again, but now the need is greatest among the earthquake victims.
Tolerance towards refugees is noticeably decreasing in Turkish society. Especially among the poor Turks, there is a lot of resentment given their poor prospects. The country is home to four million refugees and on the streets I only hear Russian from the better-off Ukrainians and Russians who fled to Turkey because of the war. Housing in the country is scarce.
At noon, people come to TIAFI for free food distribution. Poor Turkish families in the neighborhood in particular need more than five hundred portions every day, which are prepared by Syrian women in the community center’s kitchen.
While I take photos, keep the children busy, do the bookkeeping, serve food and wash the dishes, Anne tells me about current events, including the terrible fate of those seeking help. There is the boy who is buried with his family. His brother dies next to him and he loses his leg. Now he is hoping for a prosthesis, for which €1,500 will be needed.
Then there is the woman with five children, three of whom are disabled. Her husband has disappeared and she has neither money nor the opportunity to earn anything under these circumstances.
And then there is the other woman, also alone with five children. Her eldest son was hit by a car and has been in a coma ever since. I have brought money from donors in Germany to support families, but it will only last temporarily.
It is very difficult to take photos of the participating women or refugees in general at TIAFI. In addition to the fact that people do not want to be photographed in their neediness, a cultural problem also plays a role for the women. The women from Syria and Iraq are partially fully veiled. Nobody is allowed to see her face and certainly not to be photographed.
If I can take a picture at all, the women turn away or leave the room. Recently there has even been a hairdressing course at TIAFI with 24 participants. However, as soon as I enter the room I only see a few shadows disappearing behind a curtain.
Avicenna supports TIAFI in most areas, be it money for the kitchen, money for the care packages, money for childcare or money for treatment of disabled children.
Two years ago we started a project together with the W.P. Schmitz Foundations that single mothers in particular should benefit from fleeing.
I am very happy to see these courses in reality now, after we worked together on the concepts and implementation for so long and the opening of the school was pushed back again and again because of Corona.
Anne recently received donations in the form of a playground that was placed on the roof of the building. A fenced soccer field, slides and swings will delight the children.
I only manage to take photos for brief moments, then I am involved in the game by the children, who have already experienced so many terrible things.