GW’s Turkish Student Association led efforts to raise money and help students cope with the loss of family and friends in the wake of last week’s earthquake in Turkey.
The earthquake, registering a magnitude of 7.4 and centered in the northwestern city of Golguk, in the region of Marmara, struck close to home for many students because of its close proximity to Istanbul. Most GW students from Turkey come from Istanbul, the country’s capital city.
“(Golguk) is approximately 150 kilometers (or 93 miles) from Istanbul,” TSA secretary Ayse Askin said.
Many Turkish GW students, away from their hometown, have had their lives shaken by the recent disaster.
“I hear a lot of it among my friends,” said Halim Tansug, TSA president and native of Istanbul. “(The earthquake) is the only topic that has been spoken. “Personally, I’ve gotten really depressed and careless because I can’t help but think about it.”
Askin said she was shocked by last week’s event.
“When it actually happened, I was sleeping,” Askin said. “It was 12 at night and my friend called and said that there was a huge earthquake – I just flipped.”
Askin ran to Gelman Library and spent hours on the Internet trying to find out up-to-the-minute information about her country.
“I tried to log onto some Turkish Web sites, and obviously I was unable to find them,” said Askin, alluding to the outage of power and computer systems as a result of the disaster.
Askin’s family was in the District when the earthquake struck.
“Fortunately my dad, my brother and mom were safe over here,” Askin said.
“But we heard that a cupboard in our house as well as a closet have fallen down,” Askin said. “Other than that, we know our close relatives are okay.” Askin’s family will return to Turkey this weekend.
Another student’s family was not quite as fortunate. Levent Yanik, former TSA president and a physics doctoral candidate, lost several relatives in Golguk.
“It’s very difficult,” he said. “School is just beginning, and right away I’m planning to go back to be with my family.”
Yanik said he has tried to find tickets to fly home, but most of the planes are full.
“I just want to go back to be with my family,” said Yanik, whose immediate family lives in the southern city of Adana. “It’s hard to be far away… I feel (like there is) nothing to do from here.”
While Yanik said he received a network of support from his wife and close friends, he is concerned for freshmen who are unable to reach their families back home.
Reaching family members in Turkey has been difficult because of the lingering outage of phone systems across the country.
The TSA began a fund raiser to benefit those who have been affected by the earthquake.
“We have a donation box and we’re raising money to work through the Turkish Embassy and the American Red Cross,” Askin said.
Askin said GW students have been supportive.
“We’ve received a very good response,” Tansug said. “(GW) President (Stephen Joel) Trachtenberg mentioned (the fund raiser) during his opening remarks and students and parents were very receptive.”
Although the TSA was planning to end the benefit Friday, it definitely will be extended, Tansug said.
To decide its course of action, TSA will host a meeting Friday for all members to elect next year’s officers, to decide which events it wants to host and to raise more money from members.
“Some have suggested we have a party to raise money for victims but (because) people are dying, most people do not support the idea,” Tansug said. “We might have a bake sale or sell food or something else like that.”
With strong support and understanding from the administration, many students had nothing but praise for Trachtenberg.
“I think the large amount of support occurred because of the good relations between Turkey and the United States and GW and the Bosporous University,” Askin said.
A plethora of student organizations, including the Student Association, the Muslim Student Association and the Indian Student Association, have all expressed interest in assisting TSA with its fund raising efforts.
“I felt hopeless for the people of Turkey and frustrated,” Tansug said. “I can’t help in person, but now that we have all the activities, I feel kind of better.”