How are the different situations in our countries and associations?
In informal conversations with fellow-practitioners and friends in other countries, it seems that in general people are going through similar experiences. What we see on the news also seems to confirm this as being the case. However, on reflection there are some noteworthy differences in Turkey. For over a month the under 20s and over 65s have been under a total curfew. For those in this age group who need to work the stress must be unbearable. For the general population we have also had a total curfew for the last 2 weekends with more expected (the government cannot consider a full lock down or curfew during the week due to the economic damage this might cause an already weak economy). The first of these 2 curfews was announced late on the Friday evening causing widespread panic and crowds of shoppers running out to get some last minute supplies.
Having said that, Turkish people are used to crises (the last attempted military coup was in 2016) with curfews being part of living memory for a sizeable section of the population. Therefore, the situation might be extremely stressful and worrying but perhaps slightly less out of the ordinary than for citizens of Western European countries.
In terms of the direct impact of the virus, it seems that Turkey has managed to prevent the spread getting out of control with the number of fatalities much lower than in western Europe. We have also discovered that our health system is far better prepared for such a crisis than expected with the number of intensive care places very high in proportion to the population. There does not seem to be any prospect of the health service being overwhelmed in the coming weeks.
With regards to ATAD, we made an effort to keep the lines of communication between our members and fellow-practitioners open in order to encourage mutual support and the disseminate information. In addition, we held a number of webinars on how we should cope with the Covid crisis both personally and professionally, and on Time Structuring during these days. However, recently the Ministry of Interior has banned all types of meetings (physical or online) of all Associations and Foundations in Turkey as a security precaution, which has caused our platform to become fragmented and disconnected.
What are the problems and needs?
As a developing country with a pre-existing unemployment problem, the Covid crisis could not have come at worse time. The state is limited in terms of the financial support it can offer its citizens and many people are genuinely concerned about how they will make ends meet on a daily basis. It is fair to assume that many people are financially obliged to work in order to feed their families and they have to do so while exposing themselves to the risk of infection.
It seems that women have had to bear the brunt of the extra housework and childcare which the lockdowns and curfews have brought about. For professional working women used to having a maid or at least a regular cleaning lady these have been challenging times.
What are strategies of coping with the crisis?
The national reaction seems to be one of solidarity. This is both state policy and also an individual reaction. Although it is very difficult for Turkish people to isolate themselves socially, the family unit is very strong, and people are used to spending time within the family unit.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs is also using the country’s mosque network to broadcast prayers for the dead and religious services over loudspeaker every evening. For those who pray regular and or visit their local mosque this is undoubtedly a source of comfort.
Is there any opportunity that you see in this crisis (for example becoming silent, realizing what is important…)?
In Turkey it seems that social/physical distancing and the Covid crisis has presented people with an opportunity for introspection leading to a greater awareness of what is important in their lives. The deprivations which the lockdown and curfews have imposed has also created a positive sense of self-sufficiency and personal control.
Safak Ebru Toksoy, president of ATAD