Voices of Solidarity Rising From Civil Society

Struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic, humanity is experiencing a time where it needs cooperation, solidarity, being just, helping and understanding the most. While fighting the epidemic, we lent an ear to the calls for solidarity rising from the civil society of Turkey.

The new type of coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic which emerged in the city of Wuhan in China and which took hold of the world in a short period of time continues to spread day by day. Calls for solidarity are rising from different areas of society to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Musician Haluk Levent and AHBAP team, Journalist Solidarity Network, Deep Poverty Network, Urgent Corona Locations Network, Goodness In The Days Of Corona Platform and Health Platform for All Employees are among the NGOs that call for solidarity.

“You Show The Solidarity, We Make The News” 

With the first case of Turkey, the Journalist Solidarity Network called on those working in various business lines to form their own professional solidarity organizations. Speaking on behalf of the Journalist Solidarity Network, Doğan Ergün continued as follows by stating that we are facing a major disaster caused by the Neoliberal barbarism order: “Those who have caused this trouble, those who have amplified this bad situation by collapsing health systems, and finally those who left us, meaning the workers, the laborers alone with the dilemma of unemployment or death will not be the ones who solve our problem. The coronavirus outbreak once again showed how important solidarity between different segments of the population is. Teachers who show solidarity with their students, architects designing specific locations for the virus, those who make equipment for healthcare workers by 3D printers are going over big. Just like those who come together to meet the needs of those in the risk group among their neighborhoods, or those who organize collaborative work to make the problems in their sector heard. As journalists, we’ve published a call with the Journalist Solidarity Network which we established about a year ago. We invited different segments of the people to the common struggle and said, “You show the solidarity, we will make the news.” We saw that this call had an impact. We hope that we will take steps such as joint activities and coordination between different solidarity networks in the coming days. As we said in our call, it is necessary to act today to create the conditions for a humane life in our neighborhoods, workplaces and among the industry. 

“The Times With The Best Examples Of Empathy”

“Many celebrity friends are ready to help”

We asked Haluk Levent, who has invited many celebrities to participate in the solidarity movement of AHBAP through the call of #solidaritydays on Twitter, about the reflection of the culture of solidarity and the sense of solidarity on the society.

Stating that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the lives of many people in Turkey as well as all over the world, Haluk Levent said: “I am as charitable as anyone, but I can reach thousands of AHBAP volunteers. We started the campaign of #solidaritydays with the support of AHBAP and by believing in the existence of good people. We have many celebrity friends ready to help. We have received great feedbacks and we continue to. Such times are the times of the best examples of cooperation, solidarity, empathy and understanding. Therefore, having such cooperations in the world of civil society during the corona days has a huge multiplier effect and causes many to act. In this process where many workplaces are closed and where people have to stay in their homes, we have unemployed people who have no saved money and patients whose treatments continue. We want to reach all those in need in Turkey as much as we can.

“Poverty Is A Human Rights Violation” 

Journalist and human rights activist Hacer Foggo who have been working on poverty for many years, and her 15 friends have made a call over the ‘Deep Poverty Network’ concerning the increased poverty due to layoffs. We asked Hacer Foggo about the details of the campaign they started with the hashtag #changefromhome.

Stating that they have started working on deep poverty with a group of volunteers since 2019, Foggo summarized their call for solidarity as follows: “The situation which the poor people face during these days as we’ve been struggling with the coronavirus epidemic has become even more inextricable. People with deep poverty, need to have access to basic rights such as food, shelter, health, education, clothing and psychosocial support. This poverty was experienced as many of them were already unemployed. In this process, when we knocked on the doors of the families we have known for years, we saw that the situation was more severe than 3 months ago because they cannot work. During these times when we stay in our homes with my 15 friends, we thought about how we could help people and have utilized the opportunities offered by the internet. We matched families who wanted to help poor families we already knew, and enabled them to canalize their online grocery shopping to poor people. Poverty is a human rights violation. I hope this solidarity goes on. For this, we need fair people.”

“We Organized Over WhatsApp”

Founded to strengthen solidarity during difficult times in Izmir, Goodness In The Days Of Corona Platform is one of the groups that lead solidarity under its roof with the emergence of the Covid-19 outbreak in Turkey. The founder of the platform Kevser Çimenli who touched the lives of many people in a short time, summarized how they began this solidarity and how they made progress: “During these difficult times, we took action to revive the spirit of solidarity. Everyone are locked in their houses and became lonely. We looked for ways to deal with this loneliness. There are small non-governmental organizations who try to do something for others. We checked if we could bring these forces together and do better things altogether. We had had an experience of meeting under a network in Izmir before. In addition to many NGOs, our call was attended by volunteers, private sector workers, healthcare professionals, educators, public employees and university students. We were first organized through WhatsApp. We looked at what we could do. We have listed the needs. We started to match givers and the ones in need across different channels. This gave very positive results. We have seen that we can supply the materials needed in a very short time. We endeavored not only to meet the needs of healthcare professionals, but also to meet the needs of other vulnerable segments of the society such as homeless and refugees.”

A Volunteer Network From Each House To Whole City

Emphasizing that the effects will go on for a long time even if the epidemic is under control, Çimen made a situation assessment as follows: “The needs of those who have financial difficulties will increase. This process has shown us that different segments of the society have different needs and must be met. Therefore, on the basis of solidarity, we work to establish a network of volunteers, first in our houses, then on the streets and all over the city. We want to establish a volunteer network that extends from each house to throughout the city. If I have to mention the importance of solidarity for non-governmental organizations, Goodness In The Days Of Corona’s solidarity has strengthened the bond with local governments by joining the forces of small NGOs and helped the emergence of new work experiences and collaborations. In this way, non-governmental organizations became accessible to municipalities and local governments. At the same time, this process enables the public and local administrations to see how civil society and volunteers work heartily.”

“Lack Of Space May Be Experienced Among Intensive Care Units”

Coming together to offer solutions to problems that may arise in the health field due to the coronavirus epidemic, the architects established an Urgent Corona Locations Network and called for solidarity. Urgent Corona Locations Network which was established to prevent possible negative situations in hospitals in Turkey due to the pandemic, lists its suggestions against negative situations that may occur as follows:

 “This pandemic is quite new for the whole world. In particular, there is a great need for health equipment and spaces as well as more healthcare professionals. The amount of needs is much higher than normal and if the organization could not be held, it is quite possible that inadequacies will be experienced. Solid spatial deficiencies are experienced especially in the hospitals of countries where the epidemic is progressing and where the number of cases is high. Spatial insufficiency may also be experienced in the intensive care units of the hospitals in Turkey. We also consider the temporary accommodation unit needs of the healthcare staff, especially the capacity deficiencies of the intensive care units, and we aim to be able to realize various space design and city-scale organization proposals in a multi-disciplinary and collective way and to open them internationally. We follow the efforts of other different countries on this issue. In many countries of the world, designers are producing with similar concerns. As architects, we wanted to take responsibility for the need of health facilities in Turkey and we established our network of volunteers.”

“We Will See How Much This Effort Will Work In Time”

Although Urgent Corona Locations Network was founded by architects who have previously taken place among various professional solidarity groups, they do not want to stay as a group of architects only. Urgent Corona Locations Network volunteers who will continue their collective work by including different occupational groups more in time, summarize their goals as follows: “Our aim is to turn emergency medical care units into open sources by combining their designs and suggestions with organizational and urban location selection suggestions. In addition, we aim to act as a bridge for the Ministry of Health, Municipalities, Provincial Health Directorates, professional organizations and NGOs to share this resource and make it a reality. We will see how much this effort will work in time, but the reason we want to create an open sourced collective production network is that it can meet a need arising anywhere in the world. For this reason, by adding people from different disciplines to the network, we will contribute to the increase of their numbers and to the realization of fast, cheap and easily applicable design suggestions.”

If you want to be included in the Urgent Corona Locations Network, simply send an email to acilkoronatasarim@gmail.com.

Solidarity of Stage and Set Workers

In these days of coronavirus epidemic and quarantine days, solidarity work started to struggle together by establishing a “Health Platform for All Employees” consisting of stage and set workers.

Okan Kemancı, the manager of the platform, stated that working in uninsured jobs or being forced to work uninsured are among the biggest problems of stage and set workers and said: “Those who work without insurance cannot claim their rights. There are no unions to enable us to take our rights by law, and current unions are insufficient in terms of members. For this reason, the platform will first spread to the provinces and will become organized Turkey-wide on the way to unionization. When the union is established, uninsured work will be prevented by a law that will be strong on sanction. Maximum and minimum wages will be determined and standardization will be provided. And, with the positive discrimination of stage workers, the payment of insurance premiums at a discount will be requested from the state. We are a platform consisting mostly of artists and we interact with each other culturally. During this process, our meetings and production will go on. 

“Our Members Who Work At Sets Asked Us To Stop Shooting TV Shows”

Kemancı, who expressed that they started a campaign on social media with the hashtag “stay at home but how” said: “Hundreds of our members among the set laborers from the platform requested with their posts that the shooting of TV series to be stopped due to the epidemic. In this process, they wanted to be subjected to paid leave to meet their needs at home. CHP deputies Özcan Purçu and Kani Beko supported our solidarity with the videos they shared and we got a lot of interaction.”

The platform, which shares the declaration they prepared with the slogan ‘Turn Darkness to Light, Give Out A Sound to Labor’ with the public, invites to support their calls by turning the lights off at 20:20 every day.

The Requests of “Health Platform for All Employees”: 

  • Prohibition of layoffs. All workers, except healthcare workers and compulsory sectors to be paid on leave.
  • Considering the unemployment fund for the unemployed under the supervision of trade unions and professional organizations. Including the health of all safe and precarious workers within the scope of Social Security.
  • Not to pay the bills (water, electricity, natural gas) during the epidemic. Removal of taxes on mandatory needs (food, cleaning products, etc.). Meeting these requirements for everyone in need. Salaries of house laborer women to be paid with a minimum living wage.
  • Making all health services and health products (disinfectants, masks, medications etc.) free and accessible to everyone. Taking all services and products under public control and managing them by a council to be formed with the participation of relevant professional organizations, unions and experts.
  • The process to be carried out transparently. Inclusion of TTB and related professional organizations as part of the process of management.
  • Reemployment of all health workers who were laid off due to decree and / or security investigation.
  • Erasing the tax debts of all employees, unemployed people and of the ones who live on their labor. Postponing their debts such as loans.
  • Removal of political pressure on health workers. ASAP supplying of needs such as protective equipment and disinfectants.
  • Carrying out health services in all factories and workplaces where it is compulsory to work for the sake of public health under the supervision of the Turkish Medical Association and unions.
  • Expropriation of health services for diagnosis and treatment. Establishment of laboratories to conduct tests in each region and determination of the spread direction of the virus with widespread testing.
  • To meet the costs incurred in the sectors, where the continuation of the work is compulsory for the continuation of the social life, or in the enterprises where workers are paid for paid leave because there is no vital necessity, rather than the treasury created by the taxes of all the people.
  • Additional costs emerging among sectors where work is compulsory to continue social life or in businesses where workers are on paid leave because there is no vital requirement to be paid by the state from the additional taxes that would be put on capital but not from the treasury which consists of public taxes.
  • The minimum wage for those among the risk group and retirees to be the minimum living wage and all health, food and care needs to be met by the government. Taking necessary measures to secure the right to life of prisoners in prisons. In addition, the right to life is valid for every person as well as for refugees. Health, food and cleaning needs of all refugees must be met free of charge.