Middle East

Healing Page by Page in Earthquake-Ravaged Türkiye

Book by book and page by page, Türkiye’s booklovers are bringing life back to cities ravaged by the deadly 2023 earthquakes through the power of reading, with help from cash grants from the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM). 

Ahead of World Book and Copyright Day, marked annually on 23 April, Miko Alazas of IOM caught up with a bibliophile in Adiyaman, Türkiye, who is helping to heal his community through the power of books. 

Muhammed vividly remembers the day his uncle gifted him his first storybook. At the age of 10, this was the beginning of his love for literature and poetry. 

Growing up, he would arrange book club gatherings with friends. In his teens, he would organize book fairs. After university, he worked in journalism. 

In his 20s, he had already envisioned his dream retirement plan: open a bookshop. 

When earthquakes struck his hometown of Adiyaman in 2023 and left a trail of devastation, little did he know that his retirement plan would come to fruition decades early. 

IOM 2023/Enver Mohammed

The 2023 earthquake caused widespread devastation in western Türkiye.

“I lost many relatives and saw many horrible things,” Muhammed recalled of the immediate aftermath. “We all had to come together as neighbours, as a community. 

He spent some time in Istanbul to receive medical treatment, then returned to Adiyaman wondering what his next steps would be. 

As part of recovery plans, authorities constructed a ‘social market’ in the town centre – where various shops would cater to residents’ needs and revive economic activity. Included in the plan was a bookshop. 

Muhammed, already known in his community as a booklover, came on top the list of recommendations of who could be trusted to open and run the bookshop. 

“I was selected by authorities to lead this effort and provided by the Turkish Red Crescent a first set of books,” he says. “I started from zero. Everything was devastated after the earthquakes.” 

Despite the uphill battle, Muhammed was driven by his belief that books could aid in his community’s collective healing. 

“My goal was to help people recover through books. Books can teach everything and make one feel everything, from pain to happiness.” 

Starting with old iron shelves, Muhammed wanted to transform his bookshop into a more charming and comfortable environment. 

Through the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) cash grant programme, Muhammed was able to purchase new bookshelves. 

“The cash grant programme is part of IOM’s wider support to recovery efforts in the affected region. Working closely with local authorities, we aid select entrepreneurs to purchase items or equipment, enabling them to re-establish or expand their business. This, in turn, drives socioeconomic activity,” explains Çağlar Yetişkin, IOM National Project Officer (Livelihoods). 

As of March 2024, 333 entrepreneurs in 10 provinces have received cash grants. Recipients include migrants, refugees and host community members, covering sectors such as food, textile and services. 

© IOM/Anıl Bahşi

Muhammed is one of over 300 earthquake-affected entrepreneurs to benefit from IOM’s cash grant programme.

Almost a year since he opened the bookshop, Muhammed is happy with where life has taken him, despite going through such a shocking disaster not too long ago. 

“I love this business. I’m happy being around books. I meet people of all walks of life and have a unique relationship with each of my customers.” 

Muhammed is also involved in efforts to re-establish public libraries, named in commemoration of literature teachers who perished during the earthquakes. Through this, he hopes to make books more accessible. 

“When you read, you are captured by a new world,” he remarks. 

Indeed, each day, Muhammed hopes that his customers are captured into a new world of healing and hope amidst the tragedy. 

Source

8 Comments

  1. As a book enthusiast myself, I find Muhammed’s story incredibly inspiring. Books have the power to heal and rebuild communities in times of tragedy. It’s heartwarming to see how literature can bring solace and hope to those affected by the earthquakes in Türkiye.

  2. As a book lover myself, it’s heartwarming to see how Muhammed is using the power of reading to heal his community after the devastating earthquakes. Books truly have the power to bring people together and provide solace in times of hardship.

  3. Inspiring story! Muhammed’s dedication to his community through the power of books is truly heartwarming. It’s amazing to see how literature can bring healing and hope in the midst of such tragedy.

  4. Is there any specific type of literature that is being most sought after by the communities in Türkiye to aid in the healing process?

  5. Muhammed’s inspiring story showcases how the power of books can bring healing and hope to communities in the face of tragedy. It’s amazing to see how literature has the ability to unite people and rebuild spirits after such devastating events.

  6. Does the article mention any specific types of books that were particularly popular for the booklovers in Adiyaman, Türkiye?

  7. Reading about Muhammed’s journey truly inspires me. It’s amazing how books can help heal communities and bring people together, especially in such difficult times. His dedication to literature is commendable, and I hope his bookshop thrives and continues to make a positive impact on Adiyaman.

  8. It’s truly inspiring to see how Muhammed’s passion for literature is not only enriching his own life but also helping to heal his community in the aftermath of such a tragic event. Reading truly has the power to bring people together and foster resilience in times of adversity.

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