“When I talked to the women here, I felt both anger and sadness when I heard about this whole process they were going through, but I also felt solidarity a lot as a feminist. When we talked to each other, I felt that both I and they were mutually empowered. This is a great need for all of us.”

As the Çatlak Zemin team, we talked to 3 feminists Kübra, Şevval and Ezgi, who went to the region in the first days after the earthquake and participated in search and rescue operations, about the effects of the earthquake on women, children and LGBTI+s and their experiences in the disaster zone.

When did you go to the disaster zone? How long and where did you stay?

Kübra: I left for İslahiye on the second day of the earthquake. I stayed for about five days. We stayed in a place in İslahiye where Neighborhood Disaster Volunteers were directed by AFAD [Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency]. There was a coordination center of AFAD next to the fire department building. We stayed in a camp close to it.

Şevval: I stayed in İslahiye for about a week and then in Adıyaman for two days.

Ezgi: As a group, we filled out a form with the call of the Neighborhood Disaster Volunteers and voluntarily joined a group that went to the area. Our journey took 24 hours because there was a great lack of coordination. After we got to the airport, there was not much about the departure time of airplanes. There was also not much about the coordination of the teams arriving there. Very experienced search and rescue workers were kept waiting at the airport for a long time, just like us. Firefighters, first aid teams and doctors were also waiting. Finally we were put on a plane, but it took a long time for the plane to take off because there was no communication with the airport where we were going to land. After the plane took off, we circled over Ankara many times and we could not land at Maraş airport because I think there was a small earthquake close to our landing and the damage to the airport was even deeper. Then a military plane landed where we were going to land on the grounds that it was an emergency landing. We had a team of 170 people on our plane; there were volunteers and professional search and rescue people. So it was a plane with a large team. It consisted of people who had to go directly to search and rescue. When we couldn’t land in Maraş, we had to land in Elazığ. We also waited on the plane in Elazığ, and then we were able to land at Maraş airport at night. We thought that a vehicle would pick us up when we landed because a petition had been written to the governor’s office stating that a search and rescue team had arrived and that they needed to be picked up by vehicle. In other words, they had been informed in advance, they had been updated because the arrival time was delayed, and all the necessary communication had been established. But even though we waited there for a long time, we could not reach these people, so we had to sleep in that ruined airport at night. Our team leader took the initiative and went out himself to look for a vehicle for an hour because no vehicle had arrived. Finally, he stopped a municipal bus that provides transportation within the city and appropriated the bus, saying “I need to take the search and rescue team from here to İslahiye”. We loaded all our equipment onto the bus and went to İslahiye. When we arrived, we actually wanted to go directly to the field. This time, we learned that the address was not fully defined for us. Even though Neighborhood Disaster Volunteers are independent, they should act under AFAD. The lack of an address made many people feel bad because we had come to go to the field, we had come to do something, but in addition to losing 24 hours on the road, we also lost time when we reached the area. And all of this happened in this way even though we informed them in advance. I stayed in İslahiye for a week as a search and rescue volunteer. After a week, I moved to Adıyaman.

How did you work in the disaster zone?

Kübra: I involved in search and rescue activities since the day we went there. We worked in buildings damaged by the earthquake and in the wreckage.

Şevval: Actually, we did everything. The first day we were there, it was mostly carrying things. A cat was locked in a damaged house in the area we were in. While its owner was being rescued, it escaped from her arms and could not be found afterwards. The woman had been injured and transferred to Istanbul. While continuing to be in contact with the woman, I also tried to direct the teams. The cat was actually very close to me, I could even walk there, but we were not allowed to leave the team and go outside. The teams didn’t want to go because the area, where the cat was, was very troubled. In fact, the only thing to do was to approach the window with a crane and get the cat from there with food. Later, the cat was saved when it spread on Twitter. Even though I was so close, I couldn’t go and intervene. When I participated in the wreckage work, I did everything I was given, such as using a jackhammer, filling buckets with rubble, emptying buckets. Unfortunately, no one was found alive in any of the wreckages I visited. When I didn’t go to the wreckage, I did work such as organizing the campsite, setting up tents, kitchen responsibility, tea-making, door watch. One day, as a group of feminists, we took special permission to leave the team and visited the tent city in a civilian way. We learned about the needs of women and children there and conveyed the deficiencies to our friends from the Feminist Solidarity Group for Disaster. We tried to solve some of them with our own contacts.

Ezgi: We first went to İslahiye as search and rescue volunteers, but on the other hand, there was a lot of destruction there, so we had basic knowledge but no professional training. At first, we thought that people like us who came as volunteers, who did not have professional training, could support other issues. But because mainly there was a need for search and rescue workers, we also worked in the wreckage for a week. The information about these wreckages came to us only from AFAD. We could not work at addresses that AFAD did not give us, and AFAD’s determination of these addresses was based on pressure from the relatives of those under the wreckage. There was a lot of information flowing through Twitter and various channels, but there was no system to coordinate it. In the incoming applications, the information had to come directly, the relatives of the person had to wait by the wreckage, find a search and rescue person, cling to them and say “Carry out a work here” and they had to stand by the wreckage for AFAD to direct someone there until their relative was pulled out. We were working for six hours and resting for six hours in rotation and we were not allowed to leave the camp during our rest. During one of our rest hours, we took a leave of absence and went to the tent city in İslahiye and visited 15 tents and chatted with the women. We talked together about their experiences after the earthquake and their experiences in the tent city. It was good both for them and for us to have one-on-one contact. On the one hand, we were able to see for ourselves how this process works for women. When we arrived in Adıyaman, there was already an established network there. There was a tent city formed by many non-governmental organizations, professional chambers and various components, as well as a center for sorting and distributing the incoming aid. Within this system, we also worked as volunteers. At the same time, while sorting, we were determining the needs we had identified. We contacted people, determined the addresses and tried to deliver them to these places. We went to villages and neighborhoods and tried to chat with women and LGBTI+ people where we went. We had contact areas in the warehouses, tent city and distribution. This part of the work was very valuable for me.

What are your observations on the experiences of women, LGBTI+s and children?

Kübra: In all these work, we had the opportunity to meet with people who were affected by the earthquake or victimized directly in the process. There is a general deprivation situation regarding the lives of women, LGBTI+s and children. There is no electricity, no water. It is a bit fine during the day, but it is very cold at night. Since it was the first days when we were there, the support had not yet arrived. Therefore, children and women were actually on the street, in the cold, somehow lighting a fire and gathering around that fire. Basically, as the aids arrived during the process, I realized that it is the women who follow up on all these supports. They are trying to find something for those children, to arrange a place to stay, to arrange something to eat. They are also waiting for their relatives under the wreckage. Of course, the situation is different for children. There is a constant crisis there and they are trying to make sense of it. When we talked to the women, we heard that they needed support, but they shared it very quietly, only when they saw someone close to them.

Şevval: The story of a woman in the Zaman Apartment is engraved in my mind. During the earthquake, her husband had jumped down from the third floor, she had thrown her children to him, then the building had collapsed and she had died. She thought of her children before her life and that’s how she lost her life. Most women were found dead in the wreckage either on their way to their children or in the nursery. Because of their role as mothers, their first thought at that moment was their children before themselves. I will never forget the child named Sevgi for the rest of my life. She was a sweet child who was always smiling in the midst of so much evil, death and wreckage. Although most of the time I tried to push my emotions to the background, I couldn’t hold back my tears when Sevgi hugged me. Afterwards we danced and played games and she included me in her joy. In the warehouse in Adıyaman, for example, women were coming and taking the needs of their children and themselves, and since some of the aid came from Europe, their size had different symbols. The volunteer man there couldn’t give her underwear and couldn’t understand the size, so she asked me, as a woman nearby, to help her. I didn’t know that size range either, but I was able to figure it out by eyeballing it and the woman was relieved to see me. The situation in the tent city was very bad. In the first tent we entered, there was a paralyzed baby who needed to be connected to a vaporizer. His mother was keeping the baby alive by spraying his nose. The mother’s  arm had been broken during the earthquake and taken in a cast, but because she could not care for the baby comfortably, she had broken the cast and just wrapped it. She said that the bones probably won’t fuse properly, but what else is there? Her husband is not dead and has no injuries, but she has to take care of that baby with a broken arm because she is a mother. There was another six-year-old boy in the same tent and he was never settled. He always wanted to go out and play. Since there were no play tents in the tent city we were in, his mother and father were trying to somehow keep him occupied. There was not even a street in that tent city, which was set up at the bus terminal. The tents were placed randomly, there was no organization. LGBTI+s were almost ignored. I didn’t see any work or help for them. They probably kept to themselves completely, they were afraid that their identities would be exposed. I read on Twitter that a trans woman covered her face and silently asked for help at the aid point.

Ezgi: This is what happens with women. There have been two earthquakes in a row and it is actually a very traumatic situation. Not only have people lost their relatives, but they are also left alone with the trauma caused by the earthquake. While experiencing this, women are also the ones who continue the pace of life. For example, something I have also observed in men is that the man in that family has the same experience, but the woman still has to think about finding food for the child the next day. She has to think about how to set up that tent and how to provide heating. She has to continue the pace of life. The burden of care, the burden of housework, which normally falls on women in the daily routine, increases exponentially. As conditions become more difficult, the effects of this on women’s lives deepen. There has been a traumatic event, and before they can experience the pain of it, they have to calculate where they will live afterwards, what their children will do, and their own safety. They feel a great “responsibility” for this. There is also a security problem for women in tent cities. There is no place that can be used as a road in the tent cities, especially in the ones set up by AFAD, they have built the tents side by side, the tent city is very dark. There are very few toilets and showers, only one or two for 250 tents. These get already frequently clogged. They are in a very bad situation in terms of hygiene. In addition, showers and toilets are usually in very nooks and dark corners. In tent cities, which are not lit at night, it is almost impossible for women to access these places. Since there is no hygiene during menstruation periods, the possibility of health problems increases. When they have a health problem, they are either ashamed to tell or have to ignore it. In Adıyaman, there has been no water in the villages for a long time. Since there is no water, women have to constantly get water from a common fountain and carry it home. They also do this to prevent children from getting lice. Although there is a heating problem, they light a fire to heat the water, and since there is no basin, they find a suitable surface to bathe the child and ensure that the child does not get sick, and at the same time, they try to ensure that the child does not get lice. In some places there is food distribution, but in some villages, there is no food distribution at all. In terms of food, women also have to do the work of identifying aid sites to provide water and find the necessary supplies. For a long time, aid did not reach the villages. This is a serious problem. People stay in cars. There is no toilet. When she has her period, there is nothing she can use because there is no aid for three or four days, so there are no pads. Many women faced this. LGBTI+s also do not particularly enter the aid queues. They do not want to enter crowded places. Because of the serious danger of homophobia and transphobia, there is a situation of not being able to access the things that are delivered there. In such a way, they also have security concerns. Therefore, there are many topics that need to be discussed separately for LGBTI+s. In addition, women’s childcare burden has also increased. Young children especially wake up at night from the cold and do not sleep. It is the women who have to ensure the safety of the children in the tent during the day, outside there is wreckage everywhere and there is a lot of risk. They have to keep the child occupied all the time. There is often no activity area where children can play. In tent cities, there is usually a situation where women do not leave the tent. Since the children are in the tent, women cannot even leave the tent and go to the eating area. There were only men in the eating area and when I asked them why don’t you go there, they said, “It is not a suitable area for children, others may be disturbed, and we have to take care of the children, so we take the food and go back to the tent.” That’s why there are women who stay in their tents for days, and when any aid is distributed, they cannot access it because they have to take care of their children. Women’s needs such as pads and underwear are not supplied to women by men because they are embarrassed and cannot ask for them. In this respect, women have difficulty in accessing the things they need even if they are very close by. There is also a situation like this for children. They are severely traumatized by the situation they witnessed, they may even have difficulty entering the tent, they do not want to enter closed spaces. They often wake up at night, there are those who have various differences in their behavior, those who suddenly lose their temper in playgrounds. In fact, serious work needs to be carried out for children. At the same time, children have lost their schools, their neighborhoods, their order in an instant. This has serious effects.

What did you experience as a woman and feminist during and after the search and rescue operations?

Kübra: Of course I had difficulties. It was not possible to fulfill needs such as hygiene and toilet use. There is no water; you cannot change pads; you cannot change underwear. It is very dark at night; it is not possible to go somewhere and find a toilet without someone with you. So the conditions are quite challenging. On the other hand, there are processes such as sorting the incoming support and aid and delivering them. You see the reflections of gender inequality in all this. Even though there is such a need for people and labor there, they say, “Women should not lift, women should not come”. Even here there was a situation of protectionism and discrimination. Men should come, men should carry them, women should cook, make tea in the camp, organize the kitchen storage. Here too, it is possible to see a reflection of gender roles.

Şevval: I was always in the role of “assistant” in search and rescue operations because I was a woman. But with the influence of the feminist women there, we created a transformation from “Let the men who can hold a gun come” to “Let the strong ones come” when an item would be moved. Depending on the level of stress, most of the women there got their periods at the same time. My period was very painful, I got a painkiller injection in the tent and was able to return to my work. We had very little access to hygiene as toilets were a huge problem. I owe a lot to the women I went to the region with, they gave me incredible strength. We were like a small feminist search and rescue team there. We established a beautiful solidarity with our vegan friends. When one of us found a vegan meal, she immediately informed the others. These are important details that seem very small. I also found myself in some strange situations. At night, while I was waiting by the fire for my other shift to start, a civilian-looking man came and said that they had an AFAD tent, but they didn’t know how to set it up and there were no people to set it up. He was asking for help from our team. I told him that I had learned how to set up an AFAD tent that very day and that I could help. Another member of the team volunteered and we went to the area where the tent was to be set up. They wanted to set it up in the field right opposite the coordination center. I said you need to remove the stones to level the ground and the man who asked for help called the team saying “guys, come on, remove the stones”. I turned around and saw that they were all soldiers wearing camouflage. My first thought was: “I am an anti-militarist and a vegan, what am I doing here”. My second thought was, “Don’t soldiers know how to set up a tent?” Because I had given my word and because I had a high sense of duty, I explained what needed to be done one by one and had the soldiers set up the tent. It was an incredible experience for me, I didn’t know what to feel for a while. They were speaking Kurdish freely among themselves and the man who had called for help turned to them and scolded them, saying “I understand your language”. I realized from their looks and attitudes that they were talking about me too. In other words, a woman with colored hair and piercings came and told the soldiers to do this and that. We went through a lot of things with the women there where we found ourselves in such strange moments. Another one was one day when I was working as a tea maker and a riot police team came and asked me for tea. I asked them where they were from and got the answer “Tekirdağ.” Since I knew that teams came from there during our protests, I was able to say “Don’t beat us up during the protests later, okay?”. The man was probably shocked, he didn’t expect such a thing from someone in uniform at that moment. He was stuck on the head of the tea maker trying to figure out which group I belonged to. Finally I said, “Don’t forget that feminists gave you tea.” He said, “We don’t forget,” but I can’t forget the surprise on his face. We had many more such tragicomic incidents, but these were the most prominent ones.

Ezgi: As a woman, I have observed that especially when there are men doing the distribution in the distribution centers, women cannot come and say what they need. When they see me, they immediately come up to us and say what they need and want to talk. When I talked to the women there, I felt both anger and sadness when I heard about this whole process they were going through, but I also felt solidarity a lot as a feminist. When we talked to each other, I felt that both I and they were mutually empowered. This is a great need for all of us.

Both as part of the search and rescue team from Istanbul and as a woman, what did you observe about the state’s coordination deficiencies and mistakes?

Kübra: AFAD had a crisis coordination center where we went. I didn’t have the opportunity to directly observe how this center functioned. I only heard the families’ reactions all the time. AFAD personnel were already insufficient in number. The state has an obligation of assignment. There were not enough people and there was a huge ego battle to get the support of other people. People affected by the earthquake were there asking questions about their needs and there was no one to answer their questions. When they asked questions about health, AFAD or warehouse officials were saying, “Go to the next door.” Which they say the next door was actually our camp where search and rescue volunteers were. People were coming there and asking if there was a health worker around, saying, “We have a relative in the village and we are looking for medicine for him.” In fact, there is a Field Hospital and Field Pharmacies in Antep, but people were never informed about them. We provided all the information ourselves, through our own research. Or they wanted to come and ask questions about the search and rescue operation, about their relatives under the wreckage. They could not find an interlocutor for this either. The place where we were working on the wreckage was a two-block complex. It was a place heard about on social media. We were able to work there in close contact with AFAD. There were only one or two AFAD employees. They did not have a problem with us working more initiatively in the wreckage, but what I saw more was that there were serious problems with the crisis center and warehouse distribution. On the one hand, some materials were arriving, trucks were arriving, people were trying to get something from the packages. Also, from time to time, when we were driving to the wreckage, we saw packages lying on the side of the road, and people were trying to get water, clothes or other necessities from them. This is already a direct manifestation of the state’s presence there. There is no proper coordination. Aid is not delivered in a manner befitting human dignity. In addition to volunteers, there is a supervisor for the field of wreckage and a building supervisor. The supervisor for the field of wreckage we worked with was an employee from Güngören Municipality and he carried out the process there very well. But this was left to the initiative of individuals. If that person had not taken that initiative, there would not have been such a successful coordination. Because different volunteer teams can come and enter the wreckage on their own. It’s a very unsafe situation, I saw search and rescue teams without helmets. There are no safety precautions. I understand that there is a great motivation to rescue people, but there were serious security gaps and lack of equipment. In the first days, there were teams working with only concrete breakers, or even without jackhammers at all. Our team could only receive advanced equipment in the following days.

Ezgi: When we went to İslahiye, our camp was settled where AFAD was. Later, the military and police also came to that area. I actually had the chance to see their work there. For example, there were very few people in the AFAD coordination center. There was a lack of coordination. Many teams could not get to the field in the first critical hours. Many teams could not go to the area despite repeated requests to go there. There was also a serious lack of material and equipment. And there was negligence in carrying out the work. Almost 70-75% of İslahiye was destroyed and the rest was heavily damaged. So we can say that the district was almost destroyed, but there was a serious lack of tents. The first few days were especially very cold. It was a process where it was not possible for people to stay outside, but people had to stay on the streets. People were coming and saying, “I can’t stay on the street, no aid is reaching me”. Because they register names, then they come again and again. There, AFAD officials were trying to calm people down by gathering everyone and saying “don’t worry, we will give tents to the houses that are very damaged first, but don’t worry, we will not give tents to any refugees”. In other words, they were also fueling the existing racism against refugees. There was only one tent city consisting of 250 tents at the bus terminal. There were two municipalities, AFAD and the military, none of them knew about each other. This miscommunication prevented identifying the needs there and doing work. There was a situation where no organization took initiative in this regard. The incoming aid was not being distributed efficiently. When people went to the coordination center there and asked for something (which I call coordination, there is a tent and it gives out two meals), the people there behaved incredibly badly. For example, one woman told me that she didn’t go to get food for two days because the person distributing food said they were greedy. While the people staying in tents had many needs and there were aids to meet these needs, they were not accessible. In Adıyaman, no aid came for two days after the earthquake. The gendarmerie, which is supposed to contribute to the search and rescue efforts, closed the entrances and exits of the city for two days. Those with relatives from other provinces could not come there for this reason. The governor’s office made a statement saying “a small number of our buildings were destroyed, there is no need for support”. For this reason, people there are angry with the governor. It is not limited to the governor. There are situations such as the return of aid and construction equipment. By the end of the second day, only cakes and juice came there as aid. Many parts of the city are facing destruction, it is raining heavily and it is very cold. People are waiting for help in cars without water, food or anything to keep warm. Many people are standing guard over the wreckage. They can’t get most of the people out because they don’t have equipment. In the first days they heard voices coming from the wreckage, but on the fourth or fifth day the voices stopped. Search and rescue teams still have not reached many villages. This is the situation here. No state institution was active until the sixth day. Only the military was waiting to prevent “looting”. On the fourth and fifth day, a small number of search and rescue teams arrived and work continued as much as possible. AFAD arrived on the sixth day and it was mainly volunteers. They started removing wreckages in central and visible places. Many people have stated that the body integrity of their relatives has been disrupted due to the direct use of diggers. A lot of work is done by volunteers. In many places we visited, state institutions have still not arrived. Health workers went and met basic needs. For example, a village with 11 devastated houses could not receive aid for days. At the end of three days, they had brought equipment through their own acquaintances. And they had pulled out their lost relatives from the wreckage. They had kept them waiting at the family health center, but since no one came, they had buried them themselves. This is how it happens in most villages. On the one hand, those who lost their lives are not registered. AFAD actually needs to be prepared for all this. We have seen that AFAD workers are inexperienced and their equipment is inadequate. This lack of coordination is costing people’s lives. People were living in these buildings that were bound to collapse and no precautions were taken. Still they lived in permitted places, they were buried under wreckage and lost their homes, lost their neighbors and social ties, and waited for search and rescue teams for days after the earthquake. People told us that “we could not be happy that we survived here, they made us ashamed that we survived”. There is a lack of access to tents, basic food and toilets. There is also the situation where the state does not allow the work carried out by organizations other than the state.

Şevval: At the İslahiye Coordination Center, we were together with many teams: AFAD, riot police, soldiers, municipality employees, and special police units. So many authorized institutions could not coordinate among themselves.

Can you describe the differences between your expectations before arriving in the field and what you encountered in the field?

Şevval: I really had no expectations before arriving at the area. It was very clear that this government and the state could not handle such a big earthquake. They emptied all institutions and made them dysfunctional. I am just incredibly angry. I didn’t know that my anger was something that could grow so much inside me. I was aware that I would encounter all kinds of neglect, discrimination and incompetence there, but I didn’t think I would encounter pure evil. I could not have predicted the Governor of Adıyaman who told AFAD that five buildings had collapsed. I could not have predicted the civilian search and rescue workers who were beaten as looters, stripped naked in the cold and thrown out of the city. I could not have predicted that the place we went to as a disaster zone would turn out to be hell. My only thought was that the state would not be there; we had to do what we could. And it really was like that.

Kübra: I set out with the awareness that I was going to a place in serious need of support. The scene I encountered in the field was frankly no different. Since I personally had no expectations from the state in the management of this process, I expected to see more or less the same thing when I went there. Nevertheless, I did not think that we would be kept waiting on the road for so many hours, that we would be made to waste so much time in long crane waiting etc. when we went to the wreckage.

Ezgi: I expected that there would be incoordination, that there would be disruptions, but I didn’t expect this much. I didn’t expect that no one would come to Adıyaman, that the city would be left alone to such an extent. And I didn’t think at least the teams going to the field would be prevented from reaching the field and reaching the people who we knew were under the wreckage in front of my eyes. I was surprised by the lack of coordination that exceeded my expectations, by the fact that when others do what they cannot do themselves, there is such a thing about preventing and destroying them. There is a destruction that is very clear in front of our eyes. There are many things that people cannot access, and the fact that those who want to provide this voluntarily are prevented from doing so, this is something that both angered me and made me feel helpless.

Have you witnessed racist attitudes towards migrant earthquake victims?

Şevval: One of our friends had heard an announcement at the coordination center saying “You can all be calm; we don’t give tents to Syrians”. In addition, the migrants we interviewed in the tent city were both facing a language barrier and were on the defense because they were constantly having problems with this. Naturally, they could not meet their needs because they could not express them properly. There was a Syrian family in a tent. Only the child spoke Turkish and he translated for us. When we asked if there was a translator in the tent city, he became defensive and said, “My mother was already going to a course, she was going to learn Turkish”. He had survived the earthquake and was struggling with refugee hostility.

Kübra: The region we work in is a district on the Syrian border. It has a mixed population. There are Syrian families. There are also Alevi families. There are also more conservative people. So there were very different attitudes and behaviors. Soldiers, police and riot police teams came to the area where we were. The military was providing the security of the wreckage. I think there are serious problems in the way these officials treat people affected by the earthquake. Especially if these people are women, there is direct discrimination. It’s like having a superior attitude.

Ezgi: Yes, there is racism against migrants in general. Soldiers and AFAD officials openly display this racism and target them. I can observe that targeting has increased even more after the State of Emergency was declared. Targeting migrants in many issues such as looting etc. increases the existing discrimination even more. Migrants have a serious security problem. We know that migrants hit the wall during search and rescue to avoid saying anything in Arabic. Because she/he thinks she/he won’t be rescued. This is not an unwarranted reservation; we can see this clearly. The fact that they are not provided with tents, that they cannot access food other than the food distributed in soup kitchens, and that aid packages are not given to them in particular increases this discrimination even more. Migrants are hesitant, they try not to leave their tents. For example, 45 Syrian people were staying in a barrack opposite a place where we were doing wreckage work. They were not specifically given tents. Everyone around was using their toilets and knew their needs, but these needs were not being met. We delivered the tents to them, pretending to take them for ourselves, but they were still afraid that they would be found out. Also, regarding the migrants, most of those who are pulled out of the wreckage are recorded as missing, not as dead. Many migrants and refugees remained unregistered.

What were your observations and thoughts on the security and looting debates?

Şevval: There were a lot of thefts in our campsite. But they were not earthquake victims, because access to the campground is restricted. At first only our team could enter the campsite, but then riot police and soldiers started to enter the campsite as well. So my stolen belongings were probably not stolen by earthquake victims but by the authorities or volunteers. On the way there, I saw that some of the markets were empty and everything was stolen. People have been through hell, are they really beaten to death for stealing perfume, clothes, food? I think it is an incredible mental eclipse. If help had arrived on time, this could have been easily prevented.

Kübra: Security is a serious problem. You are in a dark district. As a woman, I thought it was an uneasy environment for women living alone and women with children. It is not like people affected by the earthquake, harming one another, there is a serious danger situation there that is open to everything. Since we live our daily lives by constantly developing defense strategies, as women, when we see such a dangerous environment, we try to protect ourselves. I would like to say that I have not made such an observation about this discussion of looting. People were already waiting for their relatives and loved ones at the wreckage. We also took out jewelry from the rubble, but people did not have the strength to see this. I think these actually intend to provoke people who don’t know the region, who are not in the region, or to deliberately misdirect the anger directed against the state to other places. Of course, there must have been some people who benefited from this situation, but I have not made such an observation.

Ezgi: There has been a lot of targeting of migrants in terms of this looting. Stories are made up and baseless information is spread like “there was looting so aid could not reach you”. Here, no aid came to many cities for a long time. It is not abnormal for people to get their basic needs from the nearest places they can find. I find this very normal. I have never observed any looting as they say. It is natural for people to be uncertain about the future, to want to take things for granted. It may even be abnormal that this is not the case. In an environment where no help was forthcoming, there was a situation where people would share halva because there was halva in a wagon. In this situation, it is very normal for people to meet their needs from somewhere. It is actually the state that stops the incoming aid and stocks it in warehouses outside the city. This should also be remembered.

For the original in Turkish / Yazının Türkçesi için

Translator: Gülcan Ergün

Proof-reader: Müge Karahan


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