When and where did your path first cross with Kızılay ?
İn fact, İ would like to take this question as “for how long were you separated from Kızılay?” Because for our generation, being a Kızılay supporter was an automatic, spontaneous process. Almost everyone gets in contact with Kızılay branch in primary school. Because when you fall down in the hallway or school yard, Kızılay branch leader opens the medicine cabinet. Those band aids are actually the first contacts with Kızılay for all of us. Then İ got separated from Kızılay for a while. After the academic life and beginning of my career, we essentially reunited once again when İ enrolled in Bayrampaşa branch as a member in 2004. You know that helping is a labour of heart. İ have been involved in a variety of activities with numerous non-governmental organizations that organize charity events. Before Kızılay, İ was the General Director of the Doctors Worldwide Foundation. İ indirectly followed the activities Kızılay has organized abroad. İ took office as the Vice President of Turkish Kızılay in 2015, and was elected as President in the Turkish Kızılay Ordinary General Assembly held on April 4th, 2016.
What responsibilities does it bring to be the president of Kızılay, a Turkish foundation commenced over a century ago?
Protecting the interests of my country and nation has priority for me. İ also conform to this priority in my office in Kızılay. Of course, serving Kızılay requires great responsibility and dedication. We can call it a sacred mission as well. İt makes me proud to be at the head of an institution that has influence worldwide… The satisfaction one gets from helping people in need, cannot even be described. However, Kızılay carries out most of its activities with donations from benefactors. For this reason, we bear a heavy responsibility. Those who donate their property, give proxy for sacrifice, entrust alms, and financially support us through other donation channels, want these donations to reach their destination and for them to be used for benefit of people. They trust and have faith in Kızılay. W e must guard this faith, and act accordingly. For this reason, each operation should go through a filter and at the same time, should be assessed at heart. For this reason, we carry out each activity after scrutiny. Because we need to bring help evenly to the needy. The possibility of not being fair frightens us. We feel the weight of every penny donated to us, and aware of our responsibility, we duly bring what is entrusted to us by our people, to those in need.
Kızılay that appeared as a cumbersome state institution 10-15 years ago, today has a dynamic non-governmental organization identity. How has the transformation within the institution taken place?
Kızılay, active in many fields and dressing the wounds of millions, has attained its current strength because it has performed its tasks in the best way possible.
Serving Kızılay requires great responsibility and dedication. We can call it a sacred mission as well. It makes me proud to be at the head of an institution that has influence worldwide…
İn addition, being Turkey’s longest-running charity organization and a national association, we have some other tasks as well. Just as we dressed the wounds of soldiers, and treated sick people 148 years ago, we do and will continue to do what is necessary in todays conditions. Kızılay went through a reorganization process, based on past experiences. We are constantly updated in line with the necessities of the time. We heavily invest in well-trained human resources. We keep our Disaster Logistics Centres and warehouses up-to-date. Disaster relief supplies offered to the use of needy, have been raised above world standards. İn disaster periods, we communicate with all corners of the world uninterruptedly thanks to satellite technology. We have made cooperation agreements with Turkish Airlines to create air logistic bridges. İn addition to disaster relief operations, we implement the social welfare models we have developed. As a result of all these investments and operations, Kızılay has attained its current strength.
Could you tell us about the operations of Kızılay-Red Cross in terms of recognition worldwide? What does humanitarian aid mean for our country?
Kızılay gets stronger as our state gets stronger. We are now an exemplary country in the world with regard to humanitarian aidjust likeevery other area. We are the first donor among countries that provide the highest foreign aid based on the national income. Turkish Kızılay has an important place and role in these aids. İt is not possible for us to remain silent while people suffer, are in need of a slice of bread, struggle for their lives in the shadow of war. As our state does not remain silence in the face of all these, Turkish Kızılay on states side, also shows a similar reflex.
W e are also a board member of the İnternational Kızılay-Red Cross Federation. We are involved in every decision made, every discussion held concerning aid. Our strength is based on this: the whole world knows that the Turkish Kızılay extends a helping hand without making a distinction between the people in need based on religion, language, race. İt delivers aid to everyone in need from Africa to Asia, from the Balkans to the Middle East. This brings along a rightful reputation. Our target is becoming the federation president. We have been making efforts in this direction. İn the next election to be held in our country, we will run for federation presidency.
In recent years, there has been intense interest in the blood donation or charity collection points of Kızılay. What do you link peoples kindness to?
Kızılay is one of the largest and most prominent charities in the world. İt is widely spoken of with the charity activities it has carried out since its establishment. We realize all our activities with an accountable understanding and method. We make efforts to inspire trust not through words but through activities. The number of our benefactors who have entrusted us with their donations increase day by d ay thanks t o the transparency approach w e have adopted. Fortunately, the increase in number of our donors who support us, proves we are on the right path. The confidence we inspire is also reflected in blood donation figures. Because thanks to Kızılays Secure Blood Collection program carried out since 2005, citizens do not have to go from door to door to find blood. They know that if they need blood, Kızılay comes to rescue. We meet almost all the blood need in Turkey. We constantly underline the vital importance of regular blood donation in our activities so that blood donation does not only take place at the time of need. Our people do not refrain from supporting us because people closely follow and embrace Kızılay, the only national organization with numerous accomplishments.
When Kızılay is mentioned, I think of wars and social assistance after disasters. We know that you also carry out operations outside of these. Could you tell us a bit?
We work meticulously to meet the entire blood need of our country, Turkey. We provide social reli e f to millions of people in need. We offer dorms to Turkish youth, we host them in our camps. We support our elderly, our brothers and sisters with disability and the unfortunate. We continue to heal at our hospitals. We send the most powerful brand of Turkey, Kızılay Mineral Water to domestic and foreign markets. We reach more people in need in nearly 700 branches across the country. We make sure that the people in need benefit from the soup kitchens, elderly guest houses, clothing support centres, homeless houses operating under Turkish Kızılay. We carry the sacrifices to the poor not only in Turkey but also abroad. İn order to support establishment of social welfare, we sustain our national social assıstance projects such as ”Alms Conditional Donation Project, Oblation and Sacrifice Distribution by Proxy, Love Parcel Project and Kızılay Card Project”. We develop new projects to reach those in need, to wipe their tears, and work day and night.
Could you inform us about your international relief activities?
Wherever there is human suffering, Turkish Kızılay aspires to be there. This is not an obligation for us, but the backbone of our system. Humanitarian a id operations w e carry ou t in Somali a, Pal esti ne, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and many other regions is a requirement based on our principle of not making discrimination based on religion, language, race, nationality and gender.
İn short, our existence is meaningful in these regions. The expectations of our donors, supporters and our state are in line with this. İn the changing world, as Turkish Kızılay we must open new doors, and increase international reliefs. These humanitarian efforts that have carried us to the agenda more in the recent years, are an outcome of these ideas. İ would like to emphasize once more: Turkish Kızılay will work towards reaching more in need in the coming years. Both our strength and our operational capability allow it.
We have added a new one to our international relief efforts we have continued without slowing down, and launched a new donation campaign with the slogan ” Become a Hope for South Sudan, Yemen and East Africa”. There is a massive humanitarian crisis in East Africa due to hunger, fa mine and particularly due to conflicts in Yemen and South Sudan. Food and humanitarian aid can be delivered only from the air, and deaths due to starvation occur. People who do not receive any kind of health care face serious difficulties. We have launched urgent operations in East Africa, especially in the region of countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti where drought is intense, and in South Sudan and Yemen. Our helicopters and ships will bring humanitarian aid to people in need here in the fastest way possible. We primarily work on multidimensional emergency humanitarian assistance, uch as delivering medicines and food, providing health equipment, water and hygiene kits, providing housing for and subsistence materials for various areas. This is a crisis that will last, so we need to keep the awareness high in public. We will make efforts to help people to escape death by this mobilization and to meet their needs. İ would like to tell through you that we expect support of the beneficiaries.
With the instructions of the Turkish President, the integration of Turkish Kızılay with the charity organizations of the 57 member states and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 2017 came to the fore. At what stage is this project?
We continue the work on a Kızılay Union at the end of negotiations held with the countries. As Turkish Kızılay, we are a member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of İnternational Kızılay-Red Cross Organizations with 191 members. Kızılay will be able to make significant contributions to the Kızılay Union to be formed by this background. With this union, currently directed by Turkish Kızılay to improve the understanding of regional and global cooperation, Kızılay branches will combine the forces and will get the opportunity to deliver more help to the aggrieved all over the world. With the suggestions of Turkish President who is also the Honorary President of Kızılay, the efforts for Kızılay t o establish more effective collaborations, will gather pace. We would like to express our gratitude to our Honorary President who voiced his suggestion, once again on behalf of all the oppressed.
We have launched urgent operations in East Africa, especially in the region of countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti where drought is intense, and in South Sudan and Yemen.