If he could leave right away, Ugur wouldn't hesitate for a second. But he is a security guard and his employer needs him. He will have to wait for his March vacation to fly to Turkey. "I want to go there, make myself useful, clear the rubble, build makeshift shelters, distribute soup, whatever. Every pair of arms is good to take. I had planned to go on vacation to Hamburg to enjoy the city and see friends, but my heart bleeds when I think of all those people who no one is helping. I'm going to cancel my vacation. »
Tattoo on his hands, black baseball cap, Ugur is one of those German Turks upset by the drama unfolding in the country of their parents and grandparents. He was born in Germany. His parents too. His grandparents are "Gastarbeiter", those "guest workers" who came to help German companies in the years of economic miracle. Today he came to attend the funeral of a neighbor at the Sehitlik Mosque on Berlin's Columbiadamm, bordering the sprawling grounds of the disused Tempelhof airport runways. The gray skies and nasty drizzle reflect the mood of Ugur since the earthquake. They are more than 3 million living in Germany, the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey.
In the mosque's small library, Semih Yurdagül, funeral director, receives grieving families. "At the moment, only qualified people - doctors, nurses, electricians, excavator drivers - are allowed to board planes for Istanbul and Ankara for free. Then on the spot, they are transported to the affected regions. Above all, we need competent people. Well-intentioned arms are not enough. On the contrary, it can further complicate the rescue on the spot. At the Sehitlik Mosque, only cash donations are collected. The Turkish consulate coordinates the collection of in-kind donations. Sixteen centers have been set up throughout Berlin, two per district. Then the aid is transported to Berlin-Brandenburg airport and shipped free of charge by Turkish Airlines.
And Erdogan's responsibility? "Now is not the time to talk politics and blame each other," Ugur said. You can hear the anger in his voice. It is true that Erdogan had 20 years to prepare for such a disaster. But here, we don't need words, but cranes. You must first hurry to try to find survivors and corpses, help people who have escaped and bury the dead. The results are still only provisional. There will be tens of thousands more once we clear it all out. It's going to take months, and then years to rebuild. The survivors lost everything. Already they were not rich. Now they don't even have a roof over their heads. We must act quickly. At the Sehitlik Mosque, there are fears that once the media fever subsides, the earthquake victims will be forgotten and humanitarian efforts will wane. Representatives of the Turkish community are already thinking about setting up long-term aid: sponsorships, reconstruction aid. After the 1999 earthquake in northwestern Turkey, similar programs had already been created.
Yonca, a pedagogue in a Berlin primary school, and Melisa, an engineering student, do not have families hit by the tragedy in Turkey, "but in Berlin everyone knows everyone". They came to the funeral this morning, warming their hands over their cups of coffee. The two young women have been gathering for a week "everything they need there. Diapers, baby clothes and milk, sleeping bags and blankets, sanitary napkins for women, medicine, tents…” On Instagram, they consult the lists of basic necessities established and regularly updated by the consulate.
Last Saturday, a large demonstration in memory of the victims was organized in front of the Brandenburg Gate at the call of Cem Özdemir, Minister of Agriculture of Turkish origin. This Green is the first Turkish-German to occupy such an important place in a federal government. On Tuesday, February 14, a minute of silence was observed in Berlin schools.