A commotion rises above the city. The songs of the muezzins intermingle and react to each other from minaret to minaret. It is 8:06 pm in Istanbul (Turkey), the time of sunset and the breaking of the fast at the end of the month of Ramadan. A schedule that the faster ones eagerly look forward to.
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In the working-class neighborhood of Tarlabasi, in the heart of Istanbul, members of the neighborhood solidarity collective set the table foriftar (meal to break the fast) in the street, on mats on the floor† “During Ramadan we organize our traditionaliftar† Everyone gathers around the table. People come from everywhere. No distinction is made between languages, religions or origin. Everyone mixes. It’s a moment of hope.”confides in Fatma with a broad smile.
“Everything is very expensive”
The children scream with joy and make their way between the adults. Despite the cloudy weather, a few hundred people gathered. Soup, mutton, rice… nothing is missing on the table. On both sides of the street people call each other in Turkish, Arabic, Kurdish or English. Ismail Atif, Egyptian student, is overjoyed: Ramadan is a very pleasant time in Turkey. It is very close to the atmosphere that there is in Egypt. It is a moment of spirituality. Here I really feel it. †
Friha and her sister are from Pakistan. They hoped to bring better days to their children, but the economic crisis hitting Turkey is hitting them hard. “It’s been very difficult lately. Everything is very expensive. Turkey is ready she’s concerned. The young woman met Fatma a few days ago and is happy to have found some help and kindness near her home.
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Turkey is going through a period of economic turbulence that has severely affected the purchasing power of its population. In one year, the Turkish lira has lost 44% of its value against the dollar and inflation has surpassed 60%. The constant rise in the prices of electricity, fuel and transport makes the news almost daily. Basic food products have not escaped the label roll.
Mobilization of governments and civil society organizations
Hüda, housekeeper, mother of two, earns almost 3,500 Turkish lira per month (about €220, editor’s note)† “In previous years I had guests almost every day during the Ramadan period. That is no longer possible this year. I’ve only had them for two nights this month as I can no longer afford to honor them with quality food”she complains. She was able to take advantage of two food aid packages distributed by her district’s town hall.
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To ensure that the month of Ramadan remains a party, local authorities and social organizations are fully deployed. With a well-developed food aid distribution system, the Greater Istanbul Municipality and the district town halls pay special attention to their constituents during this holy period. Households in need are invited to apply for packages of oil, rice, tea and other commodities.
“I came for the zakat (alms)† Who am I speaking to? †, asks a visitor at the counter of the Humanitarian Aid Foundation. Based in the conservative Fatih district of Istanbul, this large Islamic NGO is expanding its activities at home and abroad. It has representations in each of Turkey’s 81 departments and receives four million Turkish lira in donations annually.
“Since the pandemic, we have become even more active”, explains Mustafa Özbek, spokesman for the NGO. “Turks attach great value to mutual aid. In times of economic hardship, we were concerned about the decline in donations. But on the contrary, there are more than before.” he concludes proudly. A deteriorating economic situation in the country could jeopardize Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s chances of reelection in the presidential election, scheduled for 2023.