I had not been going to Ankara for a long time. The "5th International Kindness Awards" organized by the Turkey Religious Foundation, also known as Diyanet, brought on the occasion. I went to Ankara on Wednesday and followed the ceremony at the Beştepe Presidential Complex at location.
There were Kyrgyz to my right, Bosnians to my left, Africans in front of me, and Palestinians behind me. We overflowed in emotions together, we applauded all together, and grieved together.
Seven people chosen from among more than a thousand true stories of kindness from 1,001 places from around the world were presented the "5th International Kindness Awards" at the ceremony.
This year's loyalty award was given to Turkey's first imam-hatip high school principal, late Mahmut Celalettin Ökten, who devoted his life to raising intellectual youth.
‘Turkey the voice of compassion’
Speaking at the ceremony, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shared Turkey's kind acts toward all those oppressed on the face of the earth, in dignity and sincerity befitting its ancestors, at a time when oppression has reached a peak.
Erdoğan, who said, "Turkey has become the voice of mercy, compassion, and kindness, at a time unscrupulousness and double standard is hovering over the world like a plague," added, "Look, we did not only open our doors to our 3.6 million Syrian brothers and sisters who fled the clashes in their country, we also embraced them. We did not question the ethnic identity, religious faith, culture, or sect of anybody who came to our border."
Erdoğan opening a special headline for Africa in part of his speech was also meaningful. He said, "We did not make any effort to establish a new dependency relationship through humanitarian aid in places like Africa, which are abundant in rich sources. We are currently continuing humanitarian aid operations with TİKA, AFAD, Red Crescent, the Diyanet Foundation, nongovernmental organizations, in the world's most troubled regions."
Religious Affairs President Ali Erbaş, also gave a speech and said, "Kindness is a life lived with the awareness that we are servants of God and responsible, with good morals as our gird."
This year, seven people were awarded. I want to especially mention two of these seven people, who each have stories better than the other. Palestinian Ayle Masluhi and Bosnian Ziha Şeta.
Ayle Masluhi, who lives in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, is a lady who has devoted her life to the Jerusalem cause. She is a monument of resistance, who says, "I will not sell my home to the Jews even if I was given the treasures of Croesus." Her ceremonial speech was magnificent. My eyes welled up when she presented the salutations she brought from Jerusalem, from Masjid Al Aqsa to those in the hall. When she said, "Assalamu Alaykum" (peace be upon you), we all responded, "Wa Alaykum Assalam" (and peace be upon you).
As for Zilha Şeta, she is an example of kindness, that spreads her wings around the needy and refugees with the food bank she set up in Sarajevo.
Huzeyfe Aydın, Osman Gökrem, Turgay Tanülkü, Şengül Kazan, Frederic Omar Kanaute also received awards. They each have a special story.
Their common trait is unconditional kindness.
Both my eyes welled up and my heart rejoiced throughout the ceremony.
At one stage during the ceremony, I turned to my 33-year-old friend sitting to my left and said, "It is for the sake of these people that God still has mercy on us. It is for the sake of these people that God does not destroy the earth. Tyranny and oppression are out of control. Yet, there are still a few good people somewhere out there. All praise is to God."
If Cheers for Turkey are rising beneath muddy waters
The ceremony ended and I left Ankara. It was past midnight when I arrived to Istanbul. I went home, changed my clothes and sat in front of the television.
As I was zapping through the channels with the remote control, a documentary on TRT BELGESEL titled, "Su Savaşçıları" (Water Warriors) caught my attention. I started to watch it. I was already quite effected by the "Kindness Awards Ceremony" in Ankara.
I meditated deep thoughts while watching the documentary. There are two heroes in the documentary. One of them is a water expert, and the other a technician. They are both Turkish. They are striking to open a water well in a distant African village. Their landlord is little Fatima. She is about 10-12 years old. She has pearl-white teeth and coal-black skin. Her face bears a huge smile. She is a child, like any other. She has dreams, curiosity and concerns.
Our heroes open an artesian well to find water for days. In the final, muddy water gushes out. Our two Turks, and along with them, African children, young and old alike, go under the water. In a wet state, all together they cheer, "Turkey, Turkey."
You can see the happiness in their eyes. Fatima is saved from having to walk three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening to bring water. The water well opened in a distant African village, with the support of Turkey's volunteers, becomes life to those living there.
When the documentary ended, I collapsed on the sofa. I mumbled, "Thank God" for long while.
Those who want to see what Turkey stands for should go to Africa. They should go to Bosnia, to Jerusalem, to Aceh, to Vietnam, to the Philippines. They should go wherever there are oppressed and sad people in the world.
They should see those who "exist with kindness on the earth" there. They should see Turkey and Turks.
Then they should turn and see to what Turkey represents in this day and age.
Turkey is the conscience of the earth.
Do you not think so too?