3.5 mil­lion prob­lems

Turk­ish disaster chief Gul­lu­oglu shares ex­pe­ri­ence with Chi­nese side

Global Times - Weekend - - WORLD - By Xie Went­ing

His coun­try has opened its door to 3.5 mil­lion Syr­i­ans flee­ing civil war to set­tle and seek a more peace­ful life.

“Turkey’s choice for host­ing the refugees did not come from an eco­nomic per­spec­tive,” Dr Mehmet Gul­lu­oglu, pres­i­dent of Turkey’s Disaster and Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, told the Global Times.

“It’s not some­thing re­lated to the eco­nomic level of Turkey. It’s about moral and hu­man­i­tar­ian val­ues.”

In Au­gust, the US an­nounced the dou­bling of steel and alu­minum tar­iffs al­ready in place against Turkey, CNBC re­ported.

Wash­ing­ton also froze the as­sets of two Turk­ish of­fi­cials in protest against the de­ten­tion of US Pas­tor An­drew Brun­son on al­leged spy­ing charges.

Con­cerns have re­port­edly grown that the sanc­tions may lead to an ex­o­dus of Syr­ian refugees from Turkey, as the coun­try’s eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion wors­ens.

As of 2018, Turkey has spent $30 bil­lion on its refugees, ac­cord­ing to a Turk­ish par­lia­ment re­port.

The sanc­tions on Turkey won’t re­verse the coun­try’s de­ci­sion to host Syr­ian refugees, Dr Gul­lu­oglu said, but Turkey would not mind a lit­tle help.

The refugee crisis is “not only Turkey’s prob­lem,” he said. “This is re­ally a global prob­lem.”

Dr Gul­lu­oglu, for­mer di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Turk­ish Red Cres­cent, the largest hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion in Turkey, called on other coun­tries in the world to do their best to “de­crease the root causes.”

On Septem­ber 17, Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and his Rus­sian coun­ter­part Vladimir Putin reached a his­toric agree­ment to set up a buf­fer zone in Idlib, Syria’s last rebel-held prov­ince, to pro­tect civil­ians.

The 20-kilo­me­ter zone on the Syr­i­aTurkey bor­der will be free from mil­i­tary at­tacks, ac­cord­ing to the agree­ment.

While it’s not a cease-fire, Dr Gul­lu­oglu said it was a pos­i­tive sign that would help “de­crease the suf­fer­ing of civil­ians and in the long term, the Syr­ian crisis.”

Idlib’s 3 mil­lion be­lea­guered civil­ians were un­will­ing to move to other places, he said.

“For peo­ple in Idlib, they come from dif­fer­ent parts of Syria and they re­ally want Idlib to be their last stop. For the fu­ture of Idlib and Syria, the dis­cus­sions are re­ally im­por­tant,” he said.

The meet­ing be­tween Er­do­gan and Putin made Turk­ish peo­ple feel “op­ti­mistic” about re­solv­ing the Syria civil war refugee crisis, Dr Gul­lu­oglu said.

“Things are im­prov­ing be­tween Turkey and Rus­sia. Our busi­ness or eco­nomic re­la­tions and our re­la­tions in dif­fer­ent fields are im­prov­ing,” he said.

Hu­man­i­tar­ian act

Turkey has set up 24 refugee camps in 10 cities and ef­forts to al­le­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing of Syr­ian civil­ians go be­yond Turkey, he noted. In­side Syria, they are try­ing to as­sist mil­lions of peo­ple. “There are 3.5 mil­lion refugees in Turkey and 5 mil­lion refugees get­ting as­sis­tance from Turkey or through Turkey,” he said. In ad­di­tion to sat­is­fy­ing ba­sic liv­ing re­quire­ments, Turkey is also help­ing with health­care and ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices. In Turkey, more than 1 mil­lion school chil­dren are liv­ing as cit­i­zens and more than 600,000 are able to go to school. At pri­mary school level, more than 90 per­cent of Syr­ian chil­dren go to school. Ed­u­ca­tion is im­por­tant as it pre­vents the chil­dren from be­com­ing a “lost gen­er­a­tion,” Dr Gul­lu­oglu said.

In north­ern Syria, Turkey is build­ing hos­pi­tals, re­pair­ing and re­build­ing schools.

“For the nor­mal­iza­tion of their life in Syria, we should sup­port in­fra­struc­ture. Oth­er­wise peo­ple are re­ally re­luc­tant to go back to Syria,” he said. “Turkey is help­ing Syr­i­ans in­side Syria, mak­ing it easy for peo­ple who want to go back to Syria.”

He also noted that there are some Syr­ian kids who saw only the war.

“For some of the kids, they don’t know any fruit be­cause they didn’t see any fruit in their lives,” he said. “In this mod­ern era, if tens of mil­lions of peo­ple in a coun­try are liv­ing in this con­di­tion, it is shame­ful for mankind.”

Turkey re­ceives fi­nan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Union and the EU has in­creased its bud­get for help­ing refugees.

“But I can­not say that’s enough be­cause we are talk­ing about 3.5 mil­lion Syr­i­ans. It is big­ger than some Euro­pean coun­tries in terms of the pop­u­la­tion it­self,” he said.

Co­op­er­a­tion with China

Dr Gul­lu­oglu just com­pleted a visit to Bei­jing, dur­ing which he met Zheng Guoguang, vice min­is­ter of China’s Min­istry of Emer­gency Man­age­ment, and shared ex­pe­ri­ence in disaster re­lief.

Dr Gul­lu­oglu praised the es­tab­lish­ment of a new min­istry for emer­gency man­age­ment this year in the min­istry shake-up.

“In Turkey, we had the same ex­pe­ri­ence that dif­fer­ent min­istries and dif­fer­ent de­part­ments give one or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der my or­ga­ni­za­tion,” he said.

Dis­as­ters don’t have borders and there­fore it’s of great sig­nif­i­cance to re­ceive co­op­er­a­tion from China in disaster re­lief, Dr Gul­lu­oglu stressed.

One disaster can af­fect sev­eral coun­tries, he said. Turkey is prone to sim­i­lar dis­as­ters as China: earth­quakes, floods and land­slides.

They shared ex­pe­ri­ence and tech­nol­ogy ideas, he said.

“I also in­vited the del­e­ga­tion from the Min­istry of Emer­gency Man­age­ment to Turkey to share how we man­age the dis­as­ters, how we are ready for earth­quakes and other types of dis­as­ters.”

Photo: Li Hao/GT

Dr Mehmet Gul­lu­oglu, pres­i­dent of Turkey’s Disaster and Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency

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