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Women face additional burdens after the earthquake

ANTAKYA, Turkey: The shelves of the makeshift clinic — little more than an orange storage bin — offer everything women on the streets of Turkey’s earthquake zone were too shy to ask for.

From underwear to period and birth control products, Doctor Meltem Gunbegi is reconnecting women with basics that make them uncomfortable in the crowds of aid distribution centers.

She is also offering a listening ear, helping women in the devastated southern Turkish city of Antakya process the grief and death they have faced over the past month.

The death toll from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake now tops 46,000 in Turkey and nearly 6,000 in Syria, making it one of the 10 deadliest in the last 100 years worldwide.

A senior United Nations official said Tuesday the damage alone totaled more than $100 billion, with additional money needed for recovery costs.

“Many are shy when it comes to asking for basics like bras, wax bands and tweezers, so they come to us in the container,” says the 33-year-old doctor.

More women have genital problems due to poor hygiene conditions in the tent cities set up in the 11 provinces hit by the quake, Gunbegi said.

But she also sees women who are clearly still in shock and too traumatized to think about their own bodies — even while pregnant.

“You’ve seen a lot of death, a lot of destruction,” the doctor said. “They really don’t seem to be thinking about the baby. You are in a state of trauma.”


Selver Buyukkeles, an earthquake survivor who works with the Mor Cati (Purple Roof) Shelter Foundation, said that even before the Feb. 6 quake, women were bearing the brunt of day-to-day pressures — like housework and family.

Now they try to do the same while dealing with personal pain and an acute sense of insecurity that comes with life on the streets.

“Women are queuing to get groceries at the distribution centers. They cook, they take care of the children and the elderly. They do the dishes. They do the laundry,” said the 28-year-old.

“Women feel responsible for their family’s situation. They are afraid of another earthquake and living together in tents makes them feel insecure,” she says.

So far, activists and doctors interviewed by AFP have observed no further cases of domestic violence or abuse, despite Turkey’s poor record on the issue.

Fidan Ataselim, secretary-general of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, has called for the establishment of “safe shelters” and “prevention centers” for women in devastated regions.

We Will Stop Femicide exposes the murder and abuse of women in the majority Muslim but officially secular state.

At least 327 women were killed and 793 injured in 2022, according to the platform.

‘safe zone’

Back in Dostluk (Friendship) Park in Antakya, not far from Gunbegi’s makeshift clinic, volunteers are working in shifts to ensure about 200 women sheltering in dozens of tents are safe.

Others stand guard in front of toilets and shower stalls.

“Here is a safe zone for women and LGBT+,” proclaim posters in Turkish and Arabic.

The Arabic is a reference to the millions of refugees and migrants who have settled in parts of southern Turkey since civil war began in neighboring Syria 12 years ago.

“We have a security system for both women and LGBT+, who are more vulnerable in such disasters,” said Aslihan Keles, 23, one of the volunteers at the park.

Turkish women often take part in demonstrations on March 8 – the official International Women’s Day – to demand a better life and protection from domestic violence.

But this year things are different in the earthquake zone, Keles said.

“Here, there’s an emergency,” she said. “This time we are in the field – but for a very good cause.”

Source: Crypto News Deutsch

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