As the bandage gives, mortified tissue is apparent.
Van is a far away town in Turkey. Van is at the center of one of the ancient civilizations of Asia Minor. The first divide.
For minds set at the make-believe ideology of the Western Turkey, Van is Neverland. For the rest, it is home as any. The second divide.
There lives “unidentified people” speaking an “unidentified” language for many. For the rest it is identified as Northern Kurdistan. The third divide.
For some, most of Asia Minor is full of “livestock” that feeds off the bountiful industries of the West. For the rest, the West is full of beggars who feed off the further West. The fourth divide.
Turkish Republic is officially 88 years young today. In its history, the powers to be lived in a room full of ghouls. Ghouls of their past and present. Their non-identity crisis and their need to control the human sources vomited these ghouls into lives of past and present citizens in the form of a unity craze that it has been puppeteering all their behavior. In turn causing the inevitable, namely the widening of the divide since its birth.
There was an earthquake at Van. For most it was a nightmare of which they can wake up one morning. For the rest, it was another awful day of their lives. The final divide.
As of November 1st, 2011 Turkey is not a unitary society. It maybe never was, but today it is official. Since the earthquake of last Sunday, distrust is the name of the game between the major two “ethnic” groups of the country.
As the quake hit one of the most impoverished regions within the country, the state was reluctant to take action within the first 12 hours for reasons unknown to this author. The only significant action they took during this period was rejection of foreign aid. (Later a minister Atalay said “they were testing the crisis management capabilities of Turkey”. but that itself cannot explain the situation since it even lacks primal human decency.)
Turkey’s scarce search and rescue capabilities (scarcity as a function of the distance of the region to most populated areas of the country), and lack of management and organizational skills of the government, or the state, or both, descended upon the city of Van as a second artificial disaster.
This void was tried to be filled by volunteer action in big cities. NGO’s, municipalities and many other volunteer groups organized relief efforts to provide most needed supplies to the victims. Only from one municipality in Istanbul, 28 trucks of relief material was shipped on the second day. People scrambled over social media to organize collection centers, packing facilities, volunteers. Called upon tent, blanket, equipment manufacturers to provide pro bono goods and services. Many big cities were totally mobilized. With modest estimates, immediate needs of a population over 500 thousand were gathered, packed and shipped from all over Turkey within 72 hours.
Then as the early winter set in on the city of Van on the third day in the form of drizzle and snow, the first cry for the urgent need of shelter came, not from the Red Crescent Director, not from someone at the crisis center at Van, no the cry came from Twitter. It totally became a “social media relief operation.”
But Turkey did not have the tent inventory or the capacity to produce, to serve a disaster in a city of 400,000 people in a country of 70 million. The state reverted to previously offered foreign aid finally, but it was too late to be of any real relief. The wintry conditions have set in, and people were scattered around sans food, sans shelter, sans home. But mostly they were left without the remainder of respect they had left for their country.
They hang on to the bits and pieces that used to be their homes. Even broken pieces of glass is cherished among the remains. They hang on to life as they never did before.
Their pain is far from over though. So significantly far from over.
Today, more than 100 truckloads of relief material is rusting in open air lots in Van. The government officials are not letting them to be distributed for “procedural” reasons. Villagers who hosted our correspondents in their house near Ercis, the town affected by the quake the most, shy of not being able to host their guests any better, appeared blank, tired and without hope, but still hospitable. Most have lost a relative. Not being able to mourn for the parted properly, they are now betting their lives for the survival of their children. Light has already deserted their eyes most probably even long before the natural disaster hit.
They crave for a tent. They crave for a warm room. They crave for a hint of life, where the rest of the country is in a heated debate over if Republic Day (October 29th) parades and celebrations should or should not be cancelled because of the quake. They don’t care. The republic never arrived in their village, why should its celebration? The region is also full of thugs who collect relief material to sell in the black market. In many points since the D Day, even drinking water was sold in black market.
Due to severe disorganization, the region is turning a big pit where only the privileged survives. One wonders if this is a case of mere incapability or is this the final stage of torture young Turkish republic deemed its minorities worthy of since its foundation. After a century, is the cleansing still not over? One ponders why while Kurdish villagers of Van were scattered on the ground prying for help in the horizon, Turkish Military Forces are chasing PKK guerrillas into Iraq and racing with the quake on human casualties simultaneously?
As of now, there is no change in the fate of the region or its people.
But there will be change in the fate of Turkey. The divide is clean now. The cut is visible. The bandages are gone and the gangrene is clearly visible. It is the final stage. The state is well beyond the realm of its 19th century, totalitarian, unlawful foundations and the locomotive that pulls the cable cars could no longer be rectified. It has outlived its destiny. Either the dead tissue will be amputated for good from the lives of its people, or an inevitable, painful and exhausting death is imminent.