A Turkish journalist reporting on the UN General Assembly from New York...
I switched on the television in my hotel room and turned on CNN as old Wolf Blitzer’s breaking news popped up.
He reported that the number of people who died from Covid-19 in the U.S. has surpassed the number of those who died from the Spanish flu (influenza) a century ago.
I looked at the figures.
The number of deaths in the U.S., where the highest number of people have perished due to the pandemic, has reached 694,619 as of Monday evening.
After watching this report, I remembered the state of New York a year-and-a-half ago, which we learned from the news once again, when I had come to report on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit.
In spring 2020, more than 10,000 people in this city had succumbed to the disease within a matter of a few months.
My dear friend Hasan Özel, who came here n 2003, and who gave us a tour of New York on Monday evening, took us across the bridge, where we watched the sparkling Manhattan skyline. He told us that there was a significant exodus from the island during that period.
Looking at Manhattan from a distance, it seems like a dream.
When you descend on it, however, you discover that things aren’t what they seem.
Or rather, that was not how I felt.
It is pleasant to stroll along and tour, but life must not be so easy for those who call it their full-time home.
The skyscrapers can crush humane emotions.
It might sound a little harsh, but sometimes you feel like a “bug.”
Coronavirus is still very much a part of life, but considering the congestion of indoor venues, similar to the Turkish public, they do not fear it as much.
The number of people wearing masks is much less in comparison to those who are not wearing masks.
The vast majority of the measures taken to curb the virus gradually enacted since March 2020 were lifted as of mid-June.
With 70 percent of the adult population inoculated with at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, normalization decisions started to be taken simultaneously.
On Monday morning, we attended, along with the Turkish delegation, the opening of the Turkish House, built right across the United Nations building.
President Erdoğan, who spoke at the opening, said, “We advocate for a more just global order. We are assuming active roles, and opening our doors to millions of oppressed migrants, working towards a fairer system. The Turkish House is also a symbol of our faith in peace.”
As is known, Erdoğan has a special approach in the United Nations. He often states that “The world is bigger than five,” referring to the UN’s five permanent members.
In his UN General Assembly address two years ago, acting as the voice of the silent majority, he powerfully articulated the torture, oppression, invasions, and tyranny in the world, and made reference to the seven-decade occupant and expansionist mentality. He asked, “Where do Israel’s borders end?”, and added, “The world is bigger than five.”
Erdoğan’s book titled, “A Fairer World Is Possible," was recently published.
The introduction of the book has a strong emphasis on the unjust structure of the international system.
For example, in one chapter Erdoğan says:
“We are drawing attention to the need for extensive reforms in the Security Council, which serves the interests of the sole five countries that have the right to veto. We are pointing to the dilemmas of global politics by categorizing them as global injustice, the refugee crisis, international tourism, and anti-Islam.
Does this stance disturb the big shots of the established order?
Of course, it does.
The UN, with more than 200 members, which is expected to take initiative in the humanitarian crises happening around the world, often acts like it is putty in the hands of the five permanent members.
I will add one more thing:
Turkey’s mandatory or voluntary role in numerous international humanitarian crises has a serious share in Erdoğan’s objection to this structure, and stating that it is unjust.
For example, the UN is yet to develop a mission that will touch upon the Palestine issue and serve as a deterrent against Israel’s invasions.
Similar to what happened to Rwanda in the past, and in Syria in the present, it is helplessly watching civil wars and massacres unfold.
An organization that structurally has more than 200 members has transformed into one that just talks the talk, and sometimes, doesn’t even do that.
Turkey is among the world’s most generous countries, reaching out and trying to take on as much of the burden as it can, and shows the most sensitivity in the case of humanitarian crises in various regions.
Turkey's actions serve as a sort of rebellion against the structural issues of the UN, however, there's also the impact of being a country that has been overwhelmed by the plight of people oppressed by tyranny.
Even though the authorities of the established global system turn a deaf ear to their plight, Erdoğan’s words resonated on the streets.
We used to see this in other locations. Now in New York, we met similar people.
A man of Ghana origin, working as a horse carriage driver at the entrance of Central Park said, “He is a tough man.”
As soon as he learned we had come from Turkey, a Bengali shopkeeper said, “Erdogan,” with a smile on his face.