Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Natural Terror

I’m fortunate to have awoken to beautiful scenery and sunshine this past week  ..

However .. Just over a week ago, on the 23rd of October, a massive earthquake rumbled Turkey near the city of Van in the Eastern part of the country, and the people who live there awoke to terror. I’d like to thank everyone who enquired after my safety and sent good wishes by email, facebook, skype and the other media outlets. Fortunately, I’m far from the epicentre of the quake zone and suffered no ill harm, however, I do know several people with family in the area and wish them the best in these difficult times.

Five days before the unsettling tremor, on October 18th, 24 Turkish soldiers were killed and 18 others wounded when an attack on police and civilians occurred near the Turkish-Iraqi border as the PKK once again set out to make their point for Kurdish independence in the region. At least 21 PKK militants were also killed attempting to flee back into Iraq after their raid on the border towns.

The town of Ercis, the most devastated of the crisis caused by the natural disaster is also located in the mainly Kurdish region. This raised the question once again of Turkish-Kurdish relations and the spectre of terror that haunts the two distinct cultural groups that live in this nation.

As the Turkish government and healthcare professionals, including people I know here on the coast, rallied to send aid and provisions as well as 250 doctors and a 900-person team from the Emergency Aid Team, another bomb went off nearby killing several more people, courtesy of a female suicide bomber.

The death toll from the devastating earthquake has now risen to 596 with more than 4,150 people injured. We have all seen the pictures of babies pulled from the wreckage, but how many have stopped to consider the longer term rebuilding efforts this will necessitate? The water network has been damaged and sewage may be seeping into the pipeline polluting drinking supplies, and of course many thousands have been left homeless and grieving.

Given the area’s large Kurdish population, the knee-jerk reaction of many, as seen on various social media, was that this was “divine retribution against separatist Kurds for PKK attacks.” SEMİH İDİZ

I was visiting students in a nearby town this past week and those of Kurdish ethnicity are often quite vocal about their desire to have autonomous political control in the region many call Kurdistan, although they are more concerned with maintaining their ‘cultural identity’ and perceive the Turkish-led government as attempting to eradicate their history and language. People who consider themselves true Turks are divided on this issue, with many believing peace through talk is essential while others think all Kurds are part of a terror plot, sending the money they earn to the violent opposition. Most Kurds I meet simply want to integrate into a ‘modern nation’ with the same opportunities as all other citizens.

Naturally, I support those who seek peace. Peace and compassion combined with outreach to communities in need are our most valuable assets in times like these – what potential disaster is needed for all people to recognise our reliance on each other for existence in the face of tragedy? In 1999, when a massive earthquake struck in Western Turkey, killing many thousands, the Greek state quickly sent assistance, leading to renewed understanding of their common heritage and better, more peaceful relations between the two nations, an achievement politicians had previously failed to accomplish with all their posturing.

Let’s break down the walls of inequality and remove the barriers to peace to recognise our common humanity for the benefit of all people who encounter these obstacles, for there are no greater threats in life than the unstoppable power of nature and separation from loving human interaction. I have always believed that a truly civilised society is judged by the way it treats the least of its citizens. When someone is hurting, do not turn your eyes away, but wipe away the tears and help them to smile again, the world will be better for the little effort it requires to be decent, especially to those less fortunate.

In these days of occupation, whether on the streets or in far away lands, try to occupy your mind .. with thoughts of peace ..
 Over the past few days unseasonably cold weather brought deep snowfalls to parts of America’s East coast, including those places where I lived for so many years. Already people are dying from this latest onslaught of nature. My thoughts are with my friends and family there – hopefully it isn’t an indication of the winter to come ..

While you’re at it, spare a thought for those suffering in the floods of Thailand, and save a thought for how lucky you are to be reading this instead of struggling with one of these tragic events .. No one is immune from the power of a shifting environment, so, if you happen believe there is karma at work in any of nature’s actions, shouldn’t you be trying to ensure positive vibrations to counter the terror ..?

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