Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | October 25, 2011

Shaking the Earth

I feel like I should say something about the earthquake in Van that happened a few days ago. I was in Istanbul in August 1999 when there was the big earthquake here, so I have some idea of the shock and fear that people are experiencing in Van. Their earthquake is stirring up very bad memories for many people in the Istanbul area. Ironically, on Sunday we were returning from Yalova, which was very badly hit by that earthquake. There are still empty places where buildings once stood, though many lots have had new buildings erected on them since then. On the ferry back to Istanbul the television screens on the boat were full of last minute news of the earthquake, which had just happened.

In 1999, I was living not far from the airport. A new teacher had arrived and was staying in my flat. When the earthquake hit, we each ran to stand in our respective doorways and I called down to him ‘Welcome to Istanbul’. We had no idea of how serious the quake was. Immediately people in the building ran down the stairs, so we did too, after changing into street clothes. The streets were full of people, many of them carrying bedding and looking for open places to stay in. We didn’t know what to do, so we went back up to the flat. At one point I sat outside on the balcony– silly me– but when it started swaying with an aftershock, I went back in. We each actually went back to bed but sleep was almost impossible because of the aftershocks and I remember looking up at the ceiling and hoping it would still be up there in the morning.

For some reason we still had electricity and we had a television, so we learned about what a disaster had befallen so many people. It was frightening to see such devastation, much of it only a few kilometres from where we were. Amazingly, not one thing in our flat fell down, but teachers staying in a flat a few streets over had bottles and other things fall off shelves. Those teachers came to my place to stay and we all huddled near the television to see what was happening. It was heart-rending to see the many people who were frantically trying to find family and friends and hoping they were not under the rubble somewhere.

And we see the same thing on television these days. There was a very poignant photo of a young boy of 10 who had been caught in an internet café. He was looking out at his rescuers with the hand of a dead man over his shoulder. Unfortunately, the boy, who was ultimately rescued, died on the way to the hospital.

This terrible event has taken place after many attacks by the PKK, who had killed many soldiers and some civilians. In response, Turks across the county have draped themselves, their cars, their buildings in huge Turkish flags, protesting against the ‘traitors’. I am afraid of this nationalism and I hope that it will not result in a backlash against normal Kurds, most of whom just want to live their lives in a normal way (though they generally represent the poorer segment of Turkish society). I hope also that the protesters will put all this aside as the country rallies to save and support their fellow citizens.

Some of the groups I belong to are spreading information about how to donate goods and money, and I am glad to see that. The government has been criticized for not being ready enough, but it seems that it is much more ready that it was more than 12 years ago. Erdogan has also been criticized for not accepting help from Israel, but in spite of the snarky remarks, it is not an Israel thing, as he has not accepted help from other countries either, as the logistics of getting to these areas are difficult enough.

Having been on the edge of a big earthquake, I feel very sorry for the people who have lost family and friends and for those who have been irrevocably injured, in body or spirit. At the same time, it is times like these that bring out the best in our humanity.

i thought i should add some specific information about how people here in istanbul and turkey can help:


If you would like to make personal donations, such as warm clothing, blankets, socks, shoes, boots, etc…and/or food like pre-cooked canned goods.

You can send these goods

1) via the Municipality of Şişli (Tel: 212 288 75 76) – a truck will be departing at 6:00pm tonight to deliver these goods.

2)via the Municipality of Sariyer (Tel: 212 271 1011-12)

3) Also, you can send your care packages via the following courier companies for free, however please call first to check if your nearest branch is accepting free packages:

MNG Kargo
Yurtiçi Kargo
Aras Kargo

You can also donate funds to the Van earthquake victims in writing “Van” to 2868 with your cell phone. 5 TL will be donated to the Red Cross Turkey (Kızılay) (

You can also send a message to AKUT at 2930 – the terms are the same – 5 TL for each message sent.(

Money can also be donated via this site:
Global Giving – Turkey Earthquake Relief Fund

You can donate blood today at all three campuses of Bilgi University.



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