TWO HOURS AT THE RO­HINGYA REFUGEE CAMP

Tur­key’s sen­si­tiv­ity to Ro­hingya Mus­lims set an ex­am­ple to the rest of the world

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - NAGEHAN ALÇI

THE MAS­SACRE on Mus­lims in Myan­mar, which has been the great­est tragedy of re­cent years, has passed into his­tory as a dis­grace while Tur­key stands out again as the most con­sci­en­tious coun­try

With an ur­gent tele­phone call I re­ceived last Tues­day, I em­barked on the most en­light­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of my life. The tele­phone call was from the Turk­ish pres­i­dency invit­ing me, on short no­tice, to first lady Emine Er­doğan’s visit to the Ro­hingya Mus­lims who have taken refuge in Bangladesh.

Pack­ing up hastily, I got on the plane head­ing to Bangladesh the next day. Along with the first lady and her son Bi­lal Er­doğan, For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Fam­ily and So­cial Af­fairs Min­is­ter Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Party) Deputy Chair­per­son in Charge of Hu­man Rights Ravza Kavakçı Kan and Ser­dar Çam, the head of the Turk­ish Co­op­er­a­tion and Co­or­di­na­tion Agency (TİKA), which ex­tended a help­ing hand, were also on the plane.

Af­ter nearly a seven-hour flight, we ar­rived in Bangladesh’s cap­i­tal, Dhaka. It was around 2:30 a.m. when we landed. Af­ter get­ting some three to four hours of rest, we headed to the air­port again early in the morn­ing. We needed take a one-hour flight and fol­low a land route in or­der to ar­rive at the camp where the Ro­hingya were tak­ing refuge.

When we landed in Cox’s Bazaar, which has the clos­est air­port to the camp, I re­al­ized that I must be ready to see much sheerer poverty than I saw in Dhaka, the cap­i­tal of the world’s poor­est coun­try. I saw end­less com­mo­tion, chaotic traf­fic, where no con­cept of lanes seemed to be known, and swarms of peo­ple and an­i­mals out­num­ber­ing ve­hi­cles on the road. The ve­hi­cles were con­stantly honk­ing in the jam.

Af­ter the short flight, we got in cars wait­ing for us and it took two hours to reach the camp in the midst of this chaos. When we fi­nally made it to the Ku­tu­pa­long camp, my per­cep­tion of space and time seemed to have jum­bled.

A sim­i­lar chaos was also preva­lent at the camp. Bangladesh suf­fers such an ex­treme level of poverty that the camp was not very dif­fer­ent from the rest of the coun­try. It was over­crowded and had ex­tremely poor san­i­tary con­di­tions.

As soon as we en­tered the camp, we found our­selves in the midst of a large crowd. The first lady, min­is­ters and the del­e­ga­tion mem­bers sat around a ta­ble in a small cot­tage and lis­tened to the sto­ries of those who fled from Myan­mar. The sto­ries were all a dis­grace to hu­man­ity.

The story of a young woman who es­caped into the woods af­ter her chil­dren were killed be­fore her very eyes, the strug­gle of a young man whose arm was cut off, el­derly peo­ple who have dif­fi­culty in walk­ing, the ones whose par­ents were killed. Bear­ing wit­ness to a hu­man tragedy first hand was an ex­cru­ci­at­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Mean­while, the tem­per­a­ture was at least 35 de­grees Cel­sius (95 de­grees Fahren­heit), and the hu­mid­ity was so high that one can hardly breathe. Emine Er­doğan was barely able re­frain her­self from burst­ing into tears while lis­ten­ing to the sto­ries.

Later on, we wan­dered around the camp. The ground was cov­ered in mud. As we try to slog through the sticky mud, the Bangladeshi for­eign min­is­ter wanted to stop the del­e­ga­tion since the con­di­tions were re­ally bad, but they did not stop walk­ing. The first lady, For­eign Min­is­ter Çavuşoğlu and the del­e­ga­tion ac­com­pa­ny­ing them kept walk­ing un­til they toured the en­tire camp. Mean­while, a pho­to­graph show­ing Emine Er­doğan hug­ging a Ro­hingya woman was taken.

The con­di­tions at Ku­tu­pa­long camp are re­ally poor. The num­ber of peo­ple has al­ready ex­ceeded the ca­pac­ity of the camp. Since Aug. 25, around 270,000 peo­ple from Myan­mar have taken refuge in Bangladesh, most of whom are at this camp. The ac­com­mo­da­tion fa­cil­i­ties, food and hy­giene con­di­tions are far from be­ing suf­fi­cient. Peo­ple sleep on the muddy ground and most of the chil­dren have no clothes on.

Tur­key has de­liv­ered 1,000 tons of aid to them. The aids con­sisted of four sta­ples: Rice, sugar, oil and lentils. As Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan told the jour­nal­ists ac­com­pa­ny­ing him upon his re­turn from Kaza­khstan, the pur­chases will be made from this lo­ca­tion to re­vive the Bangladeshi econ­omy. Also, step-by-step aid of tents and cloth­ing are planned.

Tur­key’s sen­si­tiv­ity to Ro­hingya Mus­lims set an ex­am­ple to the rest of the world. The first lady’s visit to the camp also at­tracted the at­ten­tion of the Western me­dia. Mean­while, Pres­i­dent Er­doğan brought up the is­sue dur­ing Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Is­lamic Co­op­er­a­tion (OIC) sum­mit in Kaza­khstan, and a dec­la­ra­tion has been penned in this re­spect. He also plans to bring up the sub­ject dur­ing next week’s U.N. meet­ing in New York.

The mas­sacre of Mus­lims in Myan­mar, which has been the great­est tragedy in re­cent years, has passed into his­tory as a dis­grace. Amidst all this, Tur­key stands out again as the most con­sci­en­tious coun­try, rais­ing its voice loudly and clearly against the mas­sacre.

First Lady Emine Er­doğan, left, and For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavu oğlu, sec­ond from left, give out aid boxes dur­ing their visit to the Ku­tu­pa­long Refugee Camp, which is home to Ro­hingya Mus­lims who fled from Myan­mar in Cox's Bazar, Sept. 7.

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