The only place children smile in Pazarcik obstructed by police
OSMAN CAKLI- There is not a soul in sight on the 12th day following the earthquake in Pazarcik. Those who have already buried their dead or no longer have a place to stay are waiting for their turn to desert the city. Those who remain attempt to find shelter in tents set up by the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). From officers in plainclothes to those police uniforms, the presence of law enforcement has intensified in the city. The state has begun to make itself felt through its pressure to ensure that no aid-providing organization other than itself exists. It has come to such a point that survivors whom we want to photograph or interview say, “I’m not sure, would the village head allow it?” When the local authority arrives, they offer no more than short information. The police’s warning of “do not speak to the newspapers, we’re in a State of Emergency” must have taken root for we cannot engage in dialogue with people openly.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS SANITATION
The need for food in the disaster-stricken region seems mostly to have been met. People are able to find food and drink even though they may be of the “unhealthy” sort, but despite 12 days having passed there is still no running water and no electricity to light the streets. The children are ill, the elderly cannot take their medication. In the disaster zone where finding any toilet, let alone a clean one, is invaluable, the most common complaint is hygiene. Everyone we talk to begins their sentence with “cleanliness.”
“THE HDP WAS HERE TO PROVIDE AID”
Places where the restroom can be used are now managed by a trustee and a guard at the door. In the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) village of Hasankoca, soldiers stand guard at the door of the help center. We were unable to enter the center’s toilet, which we had asked permission to use, because the center was closed to civilians. There were no civilians besides us anyway. Neither trucks nor aid were on the way to help survivors. The survivors we interviewed at the Memis Ozdal neighborhood expressed that the HDP was not there to put on a political show, that the HDP was truly there to help, and that the locals were not disturbed by their presence.
“SHORTCOMINGS OF THE DAMAGE ASSESSMENT WORK”
We return to the Memis Ozdal neighborhood in Pazarcik. People stand in front of AFAD tents with their luggage, waiting to hit the road. The number of people in the neighborhood has quite decreased. Countless people set out each day to travel to the homes of relatives in other cities. Life is not at all easy in the tents that have visibly multiplied in the past few days. The temperatures that fall below zero each night make life difficult, especially when health complications are added to the mix. It is not only the elderly who are ill. Children also carry similar risks. As all this happens, damage assessment for buildings is ongoing. Decisions for immediate demolition have been handed out to 26 homes in the Memis Ozdal neighborhood. However, one cannot say that the work is proceeding without fault. Speculations abound that reports are completed without anyone ever entering the home or that houses that lie on their sides are reported as having no damage. The situation was similar in Nurhak. Though the knowledge that officials do not step foot inside houses as they conduct their damage assessments is cause for concern, locals do not have the time to discuss the matter right now.
POLICE HINDERS KESK
We move on to another neighborhood, to the Coordination Center of the Confederation of Public Employees’ Trade Unions (KESK). From healthcare workers to teachers and volunteers, a considerable number of people are in Maras to show solidarity. But even here, the state’s “stone cold face” has made an appearance. Maras KESK Coordinator Mehmet Sirin Bulga remarks that people have told them “We are so glad you are here with us.” He says that soon after, the containers they had brought for earthquake survivors were seized so that the coordination would proceed with AFAD permission instead. Bulga emphasized that in the area coordinated by KESK, the intention is to heal people’s wounds and to be one with them. On the other hand, the state pressures the organization because it does not want a system parallel to itself. Bulga comments that their intention is not to create a parallel system, but rather to add their strength to the existing system so that it can be more beneficial for all.
CHILDREN ARE HAPPY WITH THEIR PEERS
In the same center, healthcare professionals are ready for outpatients. There are teachers for children. Leyla Akyurek, one of the volunteer teachers who organizes painting and sports activities for about 25 children, says that the sanitation problem is dangerous for children. Akyurek states that it is more productive for children to be with their peers in terms of rehabilitation, and notes that it is essential to carry out the relief work more systematically. In all our time in the disaster area, this was our first encounter with children who were smiling and playing games. Hanging their hand-drawn pictures on their AFAD tents, the children now recall the numbered tents by the displayed pictures instead. Leaving Pazarcik, we continue to the central district of Maras…