Hopes will rise again!

  • 10:48 22 March 2023
  • News

Dilan Babat

NEWS CENTER - When I arrived in Elbistan and went to the five women who had gathered to bury their relatives in the cemetery, they said, “We buried a mother and her child just yesterday. I realized once again that the pain I experienced in the face of the words "They burned to death, we buried their ashes" cannot be described. I don't know how we will heal, but the hope that we tried to sprout again by joining hands in earthquake zones in the face of pain and desperation will certainly grow again. 
On the first morning of the Mereş-centered earthquake, I set off towards Malatya rapidly, the reality that the effects of the destruction were not as close to what I thought I would see. The freshness of the destruction in Malatya, where I arrived late at night, the waiting next to the demolitions, the secluded streets, people waiting in front of the fire to protect themselves from the cold where there are no buildings from the cold.
The 'state' that can't keep up...
Before I come out of my shock at the reality of the destruction created by the earthquake, I find myself holding out a microphone to those who are looking for his brother-in-law and aunt in the rubble of an apartment. I find myself in an effort to ask questions without knowing that I will not hear the words "The state has been absent for hours", neither for the first nor for the last time. My efforts to reach more people and try to make their voices heard until 05:00 am without knowing how desperate the desperation in the eyes of those waiting by the wrecks is, the tears in people's eyes that never stop for a second in the face of each destruction, I am a silent guest in the waiting. In Meletî, where I reached the road from which I set out in the morning hours at night, despite all the means of the state, "the inability to reach" causes deep anger in me as well as in the public.
The reality of the demolitions
After staying in Meletî for a long time, we are going to Mereş's Elbistan district with my journalist friends. After seeing the severity of the destruction in Meletî, I think well again, and I think that Elbistan did not suffer that much destruction. As we enter Elbistan, we are greeted by the demolitions and hundreds of people surrounding the fires set in front of the Hacı Bektaş Cemevi. When I look at every person's face, I feel the pain of the houses they built with a lot of effort, their dreams and their experiences disappear in a second. In the cemevi I entered, people lit the stoves they found with their own means to protect themselves from the cold, and the elderly people who do not sleep at night due to aftershocks and sleep with the confidence of other people in the morning welcome us.
Curtains swaying in the wind…
We enter the Cemevi and get information from our friends who have been there since the first day and know the villages, about which villages are in bad condition, and we set our route towards Nurhak. On the way to Nurhak, during the one-hour journey, the items falling from the houses that were intact the day before, some of their happiness, unhappiness, arguments, joy, falling down, curtains hanging from the window… It is as if Nurhak was erased from the map, and only those who sought his relatives remained. While I take out my camera and try to shoot all the destruction from one place, I leave my camera after an hour and memorize all the destructions in order not to forget that it is so easy to die in this country. After all the destruction that I have engraved in my memory, we go to the people who took shelter in a cemevi. As soon as we open the door, we see the beds and quilts that have been removed from the rubble, and then listen to the laments of a mother who lost her daughter and grandchild in the wreckage in Elbistan. While the words "If I had died and they hadn't told me they were dead" brought everyone to tears, we sit next to your mother and shed our tears silently with her.
Only ashes remain
After listening to the mother's story with my journalist friend, we ask the women who were there to draw attention to the negligence. In the face of the weight of each question, the words "They are late", which I have  been familiar with since the first day, appear here as well. Then, when I go out, every time an uncle tells about the loss of his daughter-in-law and granddaughter, he opens his hands and cries helplessly as if he is living that day, leaving us all alone with the pain we see. We leave people alone with their pain, and turn our route to other villages again, because of the inability to just say get well soon. In another village we went to, the cemetery draws our attention. When we went to the five women who had gathered to bury their relatives in the cemetery, “just yesterday a mother buried her child. I realized once again that the pain I experienced in the face of the words "They burned to death, we buried their ashes" cannot be described.
When we return to Elbistan, we pass to the city center, wondering about the great destruction in the city center. Many of the debris we passed in Elbistan, where not a single building remained intact, is still left as it was on the first day. The falling snow remains intact on the debris, the "dead smell" from the debris where search and rescue efforts are not carried out. In all the side streets of Elbistan, I am familiar with the "smell of the dead" that I have never known in my life. While I am waiting at a wreck where rescue efforts are not carried out, I ask myself the question “why was there not a search here”. Then, turning a passerby, the person I asked the question "Why is it like the first day that there was no search made here" replied, "I have relatives here, I have to go to AFAD, call here and apply," and then I ask the question "What if there is no one here". If the answer is “Then you were left to die”, I take another load on top of the weight that has been on my shoulders since the first day, and quietly leave the wreckage.
Smile on children's faces despite the destruction
Leaving Elbistan behind me, where pain and despair prevail in every single street, I go to Mereş. In Elbistan, where I left my good thinking, I set out in Mereş by saying "who knows what pain there is". At the coordination center established in the Narlı district of Mereş, which I arrived at noon, I gathered information about Mereş and its neighborhoods and immediately got to work. The feeling of embarrassment caused by listening to the words of my friends, "you came from the road, we will go to a little rest", I take out my body and my camera and visit the coordination center. After days, a sincere smile keeps me smiling in the face of the despair it creates in me in the areas I see. Together with the families, we watch the games played by the volunteers with the earthquake-stricken children, the smiles and laughter of the children, which will be good for all of us, for hours, in the face of the happiness of the smiles on the faces of the children.
What will happen next?
One day later, we are on our way to the neighborhoods with my journalist friend. We go to the women we see in each neighborhood where destruction is increasing and listen to the pain they have experienced for a long time. Although it does not surprise us that the state is not here, as it is not in other areas, the situation becomes painful for those who do not know the true face of the state. In Mereş and its neighborhoods, where young volunteers are concentrated, people have hopes and reasons to cling to life. While the lack of "tents and water" is listed in every neighborhood we visit, the words "We did not see the state", which I have been familiar with since the first day, are listed after their speeches. Against the uncertainty of "what will we do next", we hope that the words "we will fix it and build it together hand in hand" will bring some hope in people. When we head to the tents set up in the courtyard of each house, it comes to the painful stories I am familiar with.
Crawled out of the rubble
We come across the story of a mother who has only her husband and herself at home. The mother, who has a walking disability, manages to crawl out of the rubble, but she is forced to leave her husband, whom she says "she was my life partner, my friend, my everything", in the wreckage. I find myself crying with my mother as tears slowly run down her cheeks in the face of the weight of the words "I called, I called, and there was no sound". Even though I understand the meaninglessness of the words "take care of yourself" by shaking your mother's hand in the face of the sobs left in place of her tears, the despair of not being able to do anything surrounds me. While the tears of the mother, whom we listened to for hours, do not stop for a minute, we realize that every question we ask re-pierces the pain, leaving aside what I wanted to ask and continuing on our way to see the destruction in the neighborhood.
Tomorrow: The trip to Hatay and Dilok